Personal Data Up For Sale as Lawmakers Pass Bill

By ALEXANDRA MASS
On April 5, 2017

Photo courtesy of United States Government, Wikipedia

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to repeal rules that had prohibited Internet service providers from selling their customers data without their permission. This is concerning especially when it comes to everyone’s search history.

“Representative Marsha Blackburn introduced this to legislation and has received $693,000 from the Internet and telecom industry over the course of her 14-year political career,” reported Huffington Post.

Nearly unanimously, Republicans voted to pass this bill while most Democrats opposed it. In having this bill go into place there is serious border crossing in regards to the lack of privacy we now have on the Internet. Everything we do is up for grabs. This goes from Google searching, to sending messages, checking social media apps and more. President Trump is in full support of this, which means it is not going away anytime soon.

This is concerning because as it is, plenty of personal information is available to the public even with the current restrictions.

Although similar data has been taken by users to do things like targeted ads, it goes far beyond that now. “Unfortunately, companies have realized how lucrative it is to sell user data and they’ve moved beyond sharing sensitive information with just marketers. This data is now being sold to financial companies, insurers, real estate agencies, car companies, even political parties,” according to Vogue.

In such a digitized world where technology is the center of almost everything we do, it is scary to think that things like this are going to start happening. However, there are measures people can take if they choose to protect themselves against this. There are even organizations that work towards finding solutions for situations like this.

Tactical Technology is a non-profit that explores the political and social role of technology in our lives. After this bill, they have released ways people can protect their information from being accessed without their consent.

They encourage using encrypted messengers rather than the usual iMessage or messaging app that comes with your mobile devices. Messengers like WhatsApp leave far less metadata behind which will only show that you are using the app rather than who you are talking to and what exactly you are talking about.

Technical Technology explained to Vogue what exactly the bill entailed and suggested using a virtual private network. They explain in the article, “A VPN service creates an encrypted channel between your device and the service itself, making it impossible for your [Internet Service Provider] to see what website you’re on and what app you’re using.”

The last suggestion that many tech experts are telling people is to shy away from using main search engines such as Google.

Although this makes sense from a statistical standpoint in collecting information about consumers, it crosses lines that many people may have issues with. If anyone can have access to our Internet history where is the line drawn when it comes to personal information.

The bill passed the House 215-205 and is expected to be signed into law by President Trump.

 

amass@ramapo.edu

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