How to Shield Your Online Privacy From Harvesting by ISPs, Advertisers

Photo by Chernenko Timofey / Shutterstock.com

If you know anything about the legislation Congress signed off on earlier this week, you might feel a little unsettled — or perhaps just confused about the state of your online privacy.

Senate Joint Resolution 34 voids a rule called “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services,” which the Federal Communications Commission established last year.

What you should know

Under the 2016 rule that Congress just nixed, telecommunications companies like your internet service provider, or ISP, would have had to allow you to specify whether a telecom company could share your online information, among other requirements.

Critics are crying foul at the attack on the rule, saying the move by Congress will undermine privacy protections. Here’s how the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that fights mass surveillance by the federal government, summarizes the joint resolution designed to reverse the rule:

“If the bill is signed into law … big Internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways. They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent.”

The White House has already announced that if the legislation reaches President Donald J. Trump’s desk — where it’s now headed — “his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.”

The White House stated that the 2016 rule “departs from the technology-neutral framework for online privacy administered by the Federal Trade Commission,” resulting in inconsistent application of “regulatory regimes.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Rules, also cited “inconsistent policies” in an announcement earlier this week:

“…under this Obama-era rule, internet service providers are arbitrarily held to a different standard than the rest of the internet ecosystem, stifling innovation, growth, and contrary to popular belief — consumer protection.”

What you can do

There are several free tools that can prevent third parties such as advertisers from tracking your online activity. The following four, for example, are all free or offer both free and paid options:

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells CNN it’s not as simple to prevent your internet service provider from logging the terms you search for and the websites you visit. ISPs are companies that provide you with access to the internet, after all.

“The technical ways to stop your ISP from tracking you are limited and cumbersome,” says Jeremy Gillula, senior staff technologist at the EFF.

A tool called a virtual private network, or VPN, can keep even your ISP from prying into your online activity, but you should research such tools first and be wary of the free ones.

“There is a long history of ‘free’ VPNs that prey on innocent consumers’ concerns about security and cynically make them less safe,” says Kenneth White, an internet security engineer and director of the Open Crypto Audit Project.

White tells CNN that he suggests a VPN called Cloak — which costs $99.99 a year — for folks with limited tech skills. He suggests one called Algo for tech-savvy folks.

EFF’s Gillula suggests free privacy software called Tor, which makes your online activity anonymous. That means it can be collected but not associated with you.

What’s your take on the state of your online privacy? Sound off below or on Facebook.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
9 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon
9 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon

You don’t have to be a Prime member to take advantage of these little-known perks of shopping on Amazon.

4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less
4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less

Here’s how to ditch cable — and save a bundle — without giving up your favorite shows.

Stop Overpaying for These 10 Common Purchases
Stop Overpaying for These 10 Common Purchases

The best price for many of these items is “free.”

The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money
The 5 Worst Home Upgrades for the Money

These home improvement projects basically never pay off.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps
How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps

Does it feel like your paycheck is gone the moment you get it? You can break that vicious cycle.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

What a $15 Minimum Wage Means for Social Security
What a $15 Minimum Wage Means for Social Security

A federal minimum-wage hike could affect the Social Security system dramatically.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.