Far too many politicians seem to run for elected office for nothing more than to leave their mark in the form of legislation which they support and to line their own pockets. The vote on Tuesday to repeal the privacy protections passed mere months earlier strips the rights of consumers to opt out of having their browsing history tracked and collected by the Comcasts and Century Links of the world.
If this feels like something out of George Orwell's '1984,' you might just be on to something.
In a world where we at least had the illusion of our browsing history being private, we felt as comfortable as possible heading over to WebMD to find out if the odd symptoms you've been experiencing recently mean that you are actually sick. Imagine in the not-too-distant future having a health insurance company deny you coverage because the data in the search history that they bought as they researched your risk level contained info that you may be sick due to your internet browsing history! It may seem far-fetched but there is now the very real possibility of this happening.
You may be thinking that you have nothing to hide in terms of your internet browsing but the possible implications, like the example above, should shed some light on how big corporations could potentially use this data to benefit themselves and leave you hung out to dry.
While the example above may be far-fetched and if or when our internet browsing history is sold, it will more likely be for advertising purposes. Do we really want advertising messages related to our formerly private browsing history arriving in our mailboxes? Given what some of the most searched terms are on Google, more than a few people might be scared half to death to open their mailbox each day!
The fact that the internet search history of Americans is now essentially for sale should be a concern to all â€“ regardless of political party affiliation. Privacy is something that we have taken for granted, but now that it could very well be taken away, what can we do?
The first step is to contact your elected officials and let them know that having your formerly private internet browsing data collected and sold to the highest bidder doesn't sit too well with you. The second is to do your due diligence when you sign a new contract with your internet provider. Pay attention to the page or pages of fine print, ask questions before signing contracts and know if they can change the terms of their privacy agreements in the future without your consent. Lastly, get technical about it. There are virtual private networks (VPNs) which promise truly anonymous browsing as well as the TOR browser which essentially does the same although goes about anonymizing your browsing in a different fashion.
The next step is hoping that our elected officials come to their senses and realize that they are supposed to represent citizens and not businesses. Given that this repeal passed solidly along party lines, I wouldn't hold out hope of common sense prevailing.
Of course, individual states could step up to bat and protect consumers even when the federal government sold privacy to whomever has the cash to buy it. Minnesota lawmakers appear to be able to think for themselves and passed internet privacy protections which is the complete opposite of what happened in Washington, DC just a day earlier.
The last step is to give up on getting your information online. We all know that idea is downright crazy so keep your fingers crossed or get used to mailing and reading more books. I, for one, am hoping that common sense prevails but this is the government we're talking about soâ€¦
The Scrapping Of Internet Privacy: Something We Can All Hate Together