How to Prevent Internet Service Providers from Selling Your Data
On March 23rd of 2017, the Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services regulation submitted by the FCC was officially disproved by Senate and the House, meaning that Internet Service Providers (ISP) will soon have the right to legally use and sell your browsing data without asking permission.
The Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services was a recent regulation first approved in October of 2016, which moved into effect in January of 2017. If you are unsure of what it is or how it impacts you, click here to read our article covering it.
Despite the fact that the bill will ensure that providers don’t ‘have’ to ask before they sell data to advertising, public outrage at the repeal of the regulation has caused multiple ISPs to offer assurance that A) no they are not selling your browsing data and B) they will not sell your data without asking. As a result, several ISPs including Comcast have shared opt-out notices.
However, as not all ISPs offer opt-outs, you can take some other steps to remove your data from your ISP.
What Does “Selling Your Browsing Data” Really Mean?
While you may have heard that the new regulation will allow companies to sell a great deal of your browsing data, even your personal browsing data, this is incorrect. Most ISPs cannot track individual browsing data to the extent of being able to sell individual user data, because it is illegal to track data to that extent. However, many do track generic user data to create anonymous profiles which they then sell. Some ISPs like Comcast and AT&T also use consumer data to create personalized ad experiences while online.
How Can You Opt Out?
A few options to hide your IP include choosing a smaller ISP, using a premium VPN or to use Tor. We cover each of these below.
Choose a Smaller ISP
Some Internet providers have openly opposed collecting browser data, which means that if you switch to them, you will be protected. However, this is only an option for about 20% of all American Internet users.
- Cruzio Internet
- Etheric Networks
- CREDO Mobile
- Aeneas Communications
- Digital Service Consultants Inc.
- Om Networks
- Hoyos Consulting LLC
- Mother Lode Internet
- Gold Rush Internet
- Ting Internet
- Tekify Fiber & Wireless
- Davis Community Network
- TwoP LLC
- Senior Network Architect
- Mimir Networks
- First Network Group
- Enguity Technology Corp
- Hubris Communications
- Pacific Internet
- Visionary Communications
Use a Premium VPN
A premium VPN will allow you to hide your Internet usage from your ISP – which will protect you from data collection. Most VPNs redirect your internet traffic by encrypting it and sending it to another server which will show as your actual location. This prevents most ISPs from tracking your real internet usage, although they can tell that something is up. We did a run-down of one such provider in our NordVPN Review.
However, there are several cons to this method.
- Your ISP will still see your browser data based on physical location and physical data usage
- Some websites block VPN users
- VPN slows your Internet
- You will need a premium VPN (typically they start from $4.99-$11.99) to protect your data and ensure that your VPN isn’t selling it anyway.
Tor is a browser that uses encryption and relays to bounce your server requests off of multiple relays to misdirect trackers. Like using a VPN, your ISP may still be able to see actual sites visited based on physical location, but this does protect your data to some extent.
However, Tor is difficult to set up and will slow your Internet.
Protecting your browsing data will take some work, and it may mean slowing your browsing speed down. However, if you use a VPN or Tor, you don’t have to use it all the time. Most data collected by ISPs is related to actual browsing data, search terms, and what you purchase or look at. There’s no need to protect your Netflix or media streaming use, or to use a VPN or Tor when it would interfere with your browsing experience.