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ISPs Watching You Watching Me

  |   News

I was recently looking online for a used car to cruise through downtown. After a couple of days of indecision, I decided against getting a car and just relying on my current rusty but trusty for another couple years. As a result of my search though, it seems that each time I inquire about anything online, I see all these pesky car ads. But wait. How does this happen? How do they know? And why are they stalking me? So, to satisfy my curiosity, I decided to investigate, and BINGO, my suspicions were correct. I am being watched. And if I’m being watched—then so are you.

With a little research, I found that the small text files stored in your browser to personalize your web experience can also be used to plague you with advertisements based on your online search activity. Fortunately, you can stop this by performing a simple search. Try searching “Opt out of personalization ads” for your particular Internet Service Provider (ISP) or electronic device. Generally, you’ll need to access the ISPs settings and turn off ad personalization.

You may have also heard about only using HTTPS sites which provide encryption and better security. While this may be true, ISPs can still see where you are versus what you’re doing when you get there. This is the equivalent of watching someone go into a car lot but not knowing which car they’re buying. ISPs may still track that you are car shopping, but they will not know the exact make and model.

With the new law enabling ISPs to collect and sell your internet browsing history to third party vendors, you may want to be a more active participant in protecting your own privacy. The best way is to encrypt your Internet activity through the built-in Incognito browser button, Virtual Private Networks (VPN), or The Onion Router (Tor). Use your search engine to learn more about these options.

Of course, ISPs will need to notify customers, and there will be the ability to opt-out. However, many believe that most people will miss this opportunity depending on how it is communicated. As a result, sensitive customer information may be sold to the highest bidder.

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