So far there have been two laws regarding Internet privacy in the U.S.: whereas “Edge” companies like Google and Facebook have access to your information and then use that information to sell advertising, the Internet service providers cannot do so without your explicit consent.
A few days ago the U.S. Senate voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 broadband privacy rules that allowed Internet users to choose how their ISPs use and share their personal information.
In the coming hours, the House of Representatives may vote to reveal the rules allowing ISPs full freedom to use the information they have.
The information can be regarding which websites you visit, which device you are using, where you are right now, what information you accessed at what time, and so on. Basically, whatever you do on the Internet or using the Internet, your ISP knows.
The privacy rules are being repealed because the current lawmakers feel that companies like Google and Facebook have an unfair advantage over the Internet service providers.
But, as the author of this Verge update says, when you are using the services of an ISP, you are already paying a monthly or yearly fee, which you are not doing in the case of Google and Facebook. For Google and Facebook (and other such websites and app companies) the only revenue is through the user behavior and through the content generated by the users.
The ISPs on the other hand, are already making money through a fixed or variable subscription. So, there is no real need for them to also use the data of their users.
We are quickly moving towards a lifestyle in which almost everything we do will be observable but this company or that company. Through the Internet of things what we eat, how we eat, at what time we eat, will be known through our Internet-connected refrigerators and microwave ovens.
When we go to sleep, when we watch television, when we are reading a book, will be known through our Internet-connected appliances and electric bulbs. Our every movement will be observable.
So anyway we are moving towards a world where our every move will be known. Even the gadgets embedded inside our bodies will allow companies to access information about our feelings, someday very soon.
What can you do to protect your privacy then? It’s difficult. It’s like living in a crowded neighbourhood and then expecting people don’t observe when you leave and when you come back or with whom you come back.
You can take yourself completely off the grid but if your work and your communication needs depend on the Internet that’s pretty much out of the question. You can use VPN services to hide your identity from your ISP but it is not guaranteed. If you are a computer nerd you can create your own virtual private network that can be as strong as you want but if you are just a normal Internet user, you can just hope that the probability of numbers protects you from this sort of privacy violation.