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CSO Online: Brian Solis on protecting internet privacy

CSO Online: Brian Solis on protecting internet privacy

By JD Sartain, CSO Online (excerpt)


How we got to this point with internet privacy 

The Senate Joint Resolution 34 (S.J.Res. 34) became public law on April 3, 2017. This resolution invalidates the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rules regarding the protection of user privacy for internet customers. The rule titled “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services” was published on December 2, 2016. In a nutshell, S.J.Res. 34 strips the protections that previously forced your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to get your permission before it could track and collect your web browsing history, app usage, and other internet activities, then sell that data to the highest bidders.

According to Altimeter Group analyst Brian Solis, the argument in favor of repealing the FCC’s privacy regulations applying to ISPs is flawed and misleading. Lobbyists maintained that giving ISPs the ability to gather and monetize user data would allow them to fairly compete with organizations such as Google and Facebook, which, they say, would introduce consistency across the internet to protect customer privacy and security.

“But there is no one standard that applies to the internet,” explains Solis, “And, if anything, Trump’s order further dilutes any constancy. Giving ISPs the ability to sell website history data to advertisers goes against the common understanding of privacy. ISPs charge consumers for access to the internet and that’s the agreement in which there is a mutual understanding. If users are paying for internet access and presume data privacy, then there must be a quid pro quo if their website history is to also be sold.”

While there are certainly technical approaches to protecting one’s privacy while browsing the internet, Gartner research director and risk/security analyst, Matt Stamper, reasons that this effectively confuses the fundamental issue. As a society, he insists that we have to determine if privacy is a right—an expectation of how we live our digital lives.

“What the recent ruling has done is effectively change privacy from a right to a commodity that is brokered. Privacy principles emphasize choice and consent; that is, we choose to ‘opt in’ and share our information at our discretion. That is now absent,” Stamper says.

Privacy protecting solutions

Solis warns that ISPs will lose big time if they compete against one another based on user privacy. “Comcast Corp, Verizon, and AT&T have already said they would not sell customers’ individual internet browsing information,” Solis says. “That’s a start but, now more than ever, it’s up to consumers to manage their own privacy strategies.”

The obvious solution is to find an external product that will block the ISPs and search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, etc.) from harvesting your data. Think of these invaders like viruses or malware that infect your system with garbage intended to harm or exploit you. In that case, you would install a virus protection program to block the intruders. And so, in this case, you would install a program that blocks the harvesters.

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