With the repeal of key online privacy laws imminent as of April 2017, many consumers are wondering how to keep their browsing history from being sold to the highest bidder. The good news is that a few current and future options exist to protect individuals' online privacy. The bad news is that they come at a price.
The Rise of VPNs
The news of the online privacy repeal has led many Americans to take immediate action to protect their privacy using virtual private network services, or VPNs. A VPN encrypts the user's browsing information to prevent even internet providers from accessing it. One VPN provider, PureVPN, saw sales increase 37 percent in the last week of March 2017, according to Computer World. One problem with this solution is that most subscriptions cost around $10 a month, a not-so-negligible "privacy tax" for lower income Americans.
Privacy Protection From Broadband Providers
Another online privacy solution expected to appear in the near future may come from broadband providers themselves. Some companies may fight the wave of VPN use by offering extra privacy protection at an additional cost. This would allow providers to maximize their profits from each customer, whether they sell the online data or receive an extra fee to keep it private.
Other Protections in Place
Fortunately, most websites offer built-in online privacy protection in the form of HTTPS. This encryption protocol prevents providers from seeing the content you view within a website, although they can still see which sites you visit. Top sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, already take advantage of this privacy feature. The U.S. broadband industry has also assured the public there is no need to worry, as the Federal Communications Commission still requires providers to protect user data from hacking. In addition, top providers, including Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, took a transparency pledge in 2017 concerning the data the company collects and how they use it.
Choosing a Provider With Privacy in Mind
Users can take steps to protect their online privacy by researching the policies of various providers and choosing the one that provides the most protection. Some companies stand against the privacy repeal and are more likely to keep user information private. Unfortunately, the competitive market for broadband services is currently weak. Consumers normally have only a few choices, and they may only have one choice if they need fast internet speeds.
Although President Trump is expected to sign the repeal into law as of April 2017, consumers still have a few choices and built-in protections to keep their internet activity from prying eyes. Unfortunately, the most comprehensive protection options, including VPNs, may come at a cost. Consumers should keep a close eye on their provider's privacy policies to avoid being caught off guard once the online privacy repeal goes into full effect.
Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net