‘Soon every mistake you’ve ever made online will not only be available to your internet service provider (ISP) — it will be available to any corporation or foreign government who wants to see those mistakes.
Thanks to last week’s US Senate decision (update March 28: and today’s House decision), ISPs can sell your entire web browsing history to literally anyone without your permission. The only rules that prevented this are all being repealed, and won’t be reinstated any time soon (it would take an act of congress).
You might be wondering: who benefits from repealing these rules? Other than those four monopoly ISPs that control America’s “last mile” of internet cables and cell towers? … these politicians — who have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the ISPs for decades — have sold us out.
VPN company Private Internet Access paid $600,000 to run this full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times — even though they would make a ton of money if these rules were repealed. That’s how this CRA is — even the VPN companies are campaigning against it.
…ISPs can now continue doing these things as much as they want…
Sell your browsing history to basically any corporation or government that wants to buy it
Hijack your searches and share them with third parties
Monitor all your traffic by injecting their own malware-filled ads into the websites you visit
Stuff undetectable, undeletable tracking cookies into all of your unencrypted traffic
Pre-install software on phones that will monitor all traffic — even HTTPS traffic — before it gets encrypted. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have already done this with some Android phones …
How VPNs can protect you
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.
Virtual because you’re not creating a new physical connection with your destination — your data is just traveling through existing wires between you and your destination.
Private because it encrypts your activity before sending it, then decrypts it at the destination.
People have traditionally used VPNs as a way to get around websites that are blocked in their country (for example, Medium is blocked in Malaysia) or to watch movies that aren’t available in certain countries. But VPNs are extremely useful for privacy, too.
There are several types of VPN options, with varying degrees of convenience and security.
Most VPNs are services that cost money, but the following options are convenient and free to use, with some limited functionality:
Desktop VPN apps
Probably the most secure, trustworthy free VPN you can install (as of when this article was last updated) is ProtonVPN. It’s made by the folks who also make the most secure free email, ProtonMail(which we also highly recommend)
Opera VPN – While there are definitely better VPNs available, OperaVPN is one of the very few that offer free ulimited bandwitdh. See BestVPN’s Review
Opera is a popular web browser that comes with some excellent privacy features, like a free built-in VPN and a free ad blocker (and as you may know, ads can spy on you).
Opera’s free VPN service offers a choice of ‘virtual’ country locations to connect through.
I recommend setting the U.S. as your location for Americans, unless you’re quite familiar with the ins & outs of how VPNs work.
Also be advised that you will likely need to disable your VPN in order to use certain websites or apps.
If you just want a secure way to browse the web without ISPs being able to easily snoop on you and sell your data, Opera is a great start. Let’s install and configure it real quick. This takes less than 5 minutes.
Before you get started, note that this will only anonymize the things you do within the Opera browser. Also, I’m obligated to point out that even though Opera’s parent company is European, it was recently purchased by a consortium of Chinese tech companies, and there is a non-zero risk that it could be compromised by the Chinese government.
Having said that, here’s how to browse securely with Opera: