Privacy SOS

House and Senate kill Obama-era FCC privacy rules; take action to defend your data

The GOP Congress just took an ax to your internet privacy. Here’s how to get some of it back.

  1. Use Tor browser. Tor is a free browser that lets you explore the internet anonymously. The only downside with Tor is that it won’t protect any information outside your browser—meaning your mobile internet use, app data, etc.
  2. Use VPNs for your phone and computers. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) act sort of like Tor, meaning they encrypt your internet traffic to hide what you’re doing from your nosy internet service provider. If you use a reputable VPN (which you usually have to pay for—the cost is usually not more than a Netflix subscription), you can be confident that no one is mining your sensitive digital information or selling it to god knows whom.
  3. Install privacy-protective extensions for your browsers. I use the following extensions, all of which are free and easy to install:
    1. HTTPS Everywhere, which forces websites to connect securely if they’ve enabled encryption. If you use this, your ISP will only be able to see that you visited NYTimes.com, but won’t be able to see what stories you read there.
    2. Privacy Badger, which blocks cookies and stops harmful trackers from invading your computer.
    3. AdBlock Plus, which blocks most advertisements, which also track and attack you. 

I hesitate to even offer these salves for the gaping wound we’ve all just suffered, because in truth they aren’t enough. Most people won’t use them, and therefore most people will be vulnerable and exploited. The real solution here is political. We’ve got to get Congress to pass a law granting us the protections the FCC regulations would have established. But in the meantime, take the steps above to do what you can to keep your business as private as possible, and to therefore retain a measure of control over your life.

Oh, and check out Massachusetts Democrat Mike Capuano’s incredible floor speech during the debate in the House yesterday before the vote. He seems upset, as we all should be.

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© 2017 ACLU of Massachusetts.