Be careful, the internet is watching.

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You may not have realized this but for the last month (and every month going forward) your web browsing history has been packaged and sold. In two disgustingly fast weeks in late March both houses of the United States Congress and President Donald Trump sold you out. Both Iowa senators and all three republican representatives voted to repeal a late term President Obama signed FCC regulation that required internet service providers to ask subscribers permission before selling their web usage and browsing history. So take a moment to think of every little thing you’ve done online in the last month and know your ISP not only knows about it, but that information to a third party.

Why would our elected representatives want to sell your web history on the sly? Well the official party line is holding ISPs to an unfair standard kills innovation and hurts job growth. The subcontext involves internet service giants’ campaign contributions and the bloodlust to repeal any regulation enacted by President Obama, no matter who it hurts (which in this case is every private citizen).

Now at this point we could hunt feverishly through the history of the Communications Act of 1934 and write a tomb on why preserving the amended rules established by the Obama administration were necessary, but the time for that has past. Seriously, there’s no point in crying over a regulation that is not only toast, but never coming back. And before you drop too many tears on your smartphone screen, know that ISPs never stopped selling your data; the Obama regulation was halted before its effective date in late March. So… what do you do now?

Well if you can calm your politically frayed nerve endings, the first thing you should do is consider living a normal life. There is very little difference between what ISPs are now allowed to do and what Google, Facebook, or maybe website already does. If you’ve been looking at designer shoes online, ISPs now have the green light to clue in shoe companies and make a few bucks off it. You don’t care when every site online does it, why should you care about Mediacom or Comcast doing it?

Of course there is the not-so-paranoid flipside of the coin where it doesn’t have to be brands buying your data. With no regulations as to monitoring and selling your specific web usage there are a lot of nefarious people and organizations that would love to make that purchase. So how can you fight back? Well put down the tin foil hat, because it’s time to get technical.

First, enable HTTPS Everywhere. Whenever you log on to a social network, check your email, make a purchase, or do some internet banking a site’s web address starts with “HTTPS,” or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. The ‘S’ means your actions within that secure site are encrypted and any communication between your device and the website, your ISP sees only encrypted numbers and letters. To enable the HTTPS Everywhere extension, you’ll need to download and install it on your Chrome, FireFox, or Opera browser. Of course, not all sites have an HTTPS option, so the next step is using a VPN.

A Virtual Private Network hides your location and encrypts your data so it’s extremely hard to monitor and nearly impossible to track. Of course there are several flavors of VPN, they aren’t the easiest to set up, and can cost a bit of money to establish, but if you want to keep big brother in the dark this is the way.

Having no say in your data being sold is definitely a 21st century problem. Thankfully there are also 21st century solutions.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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