Good afternoon, everyone!

I hope you are sitting down because the information that you’re about to read is a doozy.

If you didn't get a chance this week to catch up on your tech news, then you missed that the US Senate decided to let Internet Service Providers (ISP) collect and sell personal data to advertising companies without your consent [1][2]. What does that exactly mean?

Before I give you the bad news, know that the President and the House of Representatives still have to give their stamps of approval before the Republican majority can dismantle the FCC rules. However, don’t get your hopes up because my guess is that it won’t meet much friction at either desk.

Why?

In a nutshell, the Senate Republicans voted 50-48 [2], meaning that they didn’t even need the 2 Republican Senators who were away to send this downstream. Also, the Republicans hold a large 237 seats in the House of Representatives, leaving only 193 seats for the Democrats to dissent [3]. If the House of Representatives vote down their party line, like they did in the Senate, then 193 seats will not be enough to stop them.  

All of this ultimately means that those of us who use the Internet are going to have to go the extra mile to protect our data if we don’t want our ISPs selling our information.  What kind of information you asks. Oh, just: 

1) When you wake up/go to sleep (based off of your search patterns) [4]
2) What you’re searching for on the Internet (web browser history) [4]
3) App usage history [4]
4) Geolocation data [4]
5) Email addresses [4]
6) Children’s information [4]
7) Social Security numbers [4]
8) Financial and health information [4]. 

What can you do to protect your information, if it ends up that your ISP doesn’t need your consent? 

Use a virtual private network (VPN) application to setup an encrypted connection to get out to the Internet. What does that mean in layman terms? 

The easy way to think about this is:

1) Currently, you pay your ISP to hold open the door to the Internet (your TV/Internet package).  

2) Currently, you step through the door without being accosted. 

The current FCC rules make your ISP get your consent as to whether or not it would be okay for them to sell the information they have on you to advertisers.

If the FCC rules fall by the wayside, this is what your journey to the Internet will be like without a VPN: 

1) You pay your ISP to hold open the door to the Internet (your TV/Internet package).

2) You go to step through the door, but the ISP grabs your wallet/purse and copies down all the information they can (there are no rules to stop them from doing this). Before they hand your belongings back, they slip in a tracker (the tracker is for a mental image, but truthfully the ISP owns this road), so they know where you're going (web history). 

If you have a VPN this is what the journey will look like:

1) You pay your ISP to hold open the door to the Internet (your TV/Internet package).

2) You step into the Batmobile, get a salutation from Alfred, and then step on the gas to blow right by the doorman.

I don’t know about you, but I like the Batmobile scenario. If you do as well, then the two best VPNs that I’ve used are PureVPN and Cloak. Both of these are super simple to setup and not only protect your Mac but your iOS devices too.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I feel it’s important that my fellow Mac users know what’s going on. 

References

[1] Lardner. "Senate Votes to Kill Privacy Rules Guarding Your Online Info." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

[2] Selyukh, Alina. "U.S. Senate Votes To Repeal Obama-Era Internet Privacy Rules." NPR. NPR, 23 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

[3]"Members of Congress." GovTrack.us. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

[4] Jon Brodkin - Mar 23, 2017 5:07 pm UTC. "Senate votes to let ISPs sell your Web browsing history to advertisers." Ars Technica. N.p., 23 Mar. 2017. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

 

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