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How would you feel if a stranger was in your home while you weren’t there and looked through all your belongings without your knowing? Sure you might invite a friend over for dinner, and they might see photos of your family on the fridge, but only because you were aware of them being there and doing so because they had your permission. That’s the best way to summarize SJ Res 34, a highly-debated bill that became law in April 2017. It’s likely to affect internet users across the country, so we’ll explain what it means to you and how you can prevent corporations from peeking inside your computer and mobile devices just because the government gave them the authority to do so.
What is SJ Res 34? Online Privacy Bill Rules Explained
ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) are already tracking your internet history. However, the Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed broadband privacy rules in late 2016 that in essence prevented the ISPs from using or selling that data without users opting in first. The new S.J.Res.34 bill that passed the Senate and House in March 2017, and became law in April 2017, essentially blocks that legislation and instead automatically opts everyone in as the default, leaving you the option to opt-out.
Who Voted For SJ Res 34?
S.J.Res.34 passed the Senate 50-48 (with two non-votes) all of the yeas were Republicans with Democrats and Independents making up the nays. SJ Res 34 votes in the House were also split down the middle with 215 yeas (all Republican) and 190 nays by Democrats and 15 nays from Republicans. Obviously, it’s a partisan issue with both parties taking a stance on the topic. Republicans seem to favor the side of corporations and their profits while Democrats seem to be looking out for the rights of the people and their privacy. Another point of debate is that this new law gives ISP’s more automatic control regarding their customer’s internet data.
What Does SJ 34 Mean For You?
While IPS’s can still give you an option to opt-out, how and where the opt-out choice is communicated is unclear (as well as how and where you would actually do the opting out). Will we get an email from Comcast or Time Warner with instructions or would it be buried somewhere on their website where you are unlikely to find it? If it were up to the IPS’s, it seems likely it would be a more covert route that makes the choice less obvious. This is likely why they were in favor of the bill passing (as it’s much harder to get millions of people to opt-out of something than asking them to opt-in).
The good news is that the details have not yet been ironed out. So, what browsing history ISP’s are allowed to sell as a result of this new law and how exactly they are can do so is still unknown to companies, customers and regulators alike. So it’s more than likely that we are not at risk anytime soon. However, it’s a slippery slope, so if and when it does come to light, we need to be prepared to protect ourselves and our privacy going forward.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Privacy
If you’re not already doing so, you may want to disable cookies and block ads in your internet browser. These can reduce the ability of third parties tracking your internet whereabouts. But, keep in mind that your browsing history (which sites you visit, how often and when) is stored on your ISP’s servers as well, which users don’t have access to. This cannot be blocked so taking these steps will help protect your privacy from website owner’s prying eyes but not from your ISP.
To take it a step further and offer a bit more protection, we recommend using a virtual private network (VPN). Using a VPN completely masks/blocks your browsing history, including from ISP’s, so there is literally no personal data available for ISPs to sell to third parties. A VPN creates an encrypted, secure connection to the internet without allowing anyone (including the VPN) access to your browsing history. Unlike a setting in your browser, they require you to install software and pay a small monthly fee, but in our opinion, it is worth it to have peace of mind that you are safe and secure when surfing the web. There are dozens of VPN services, but they all vary in features, speed, pricing, etc.
What Are the Best VPNs?
We believe strongly that VPNs are going to play a huge role in the future of online privacy. For that reason, we have spent time researching the various companies and put together an in-depth review of the best VPNs along with the pros and cons for each one. We recommend that you start there to learn more about each service, or if you’re ready to sign up, then your best bet is PureVPN, our top-rated service. They’ve been around for over a decade and offer the industry’s leading network with quality care and customer service.
Video: How to Protect Your Data
What else can you do to ensure your content isn’t sold for profit without your consent? Watch this short video for some additional tips.
What’s Next for Internet Privacy?
We will continue to monitor this news as it develops to make sure we’re providing you with the latest information and resources to live a safe and smart life.
What are you doing to protect your internet browsing history from advertisers?