How To Protect Your Online Privacy Now That Congress Sold You Out

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Eric Limer via Popular Mechanics

All your private online data—the websites you visit, the content of your chats and emails, your health info, and your location—just became suddenly less secure. Not because of hackers, but because Congress just blocked crucial privacy regulations. This will allow your internet service provider to collect all your data and sell that info to the highest bidder without asking you first. Welcome to a brave new world.

A pair of resolutions, which passed through the Senate and House with exclusively Republican votes, roll back rules proposed by the Democratic leadership of the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration which, though passed in October, had not yet gone into effect.

The rules—which will be completely dead following the expected signature of President Trump—would have required ISPs to get explicit opt-in approval from customers before selling the following "sensitive data":



This doesn't just mean that sharing that information without your explicit permission will be fine and dandy. Since the rules were rolled back through the Congressional Review Act, the FCC is also barred from creating any "substantially similar" rules down the line.

In theory, the information collected will be stored under some sort of ID separate from your actual name. But that's a cold comfort considering the level of detail in this sort of information would make your identity a dead giveaway, and ISPs can hardly be trusted to keep your identifying information suitably safe from prying eyes. After all, they'll be building dossiers any hacker would love to steal.

What to do? There are a few things you can do to try and keep your data safe, and while they aren't necessarily easy or free, they're worth it if you value your privacy.

Opt out with your ISP

Your ISP may not need your permission to sell your data, but you can still go to them and tell them not to do it. The catch, of course, is this requires you to be proactive, and there's no real guarantee that this will protect you completely. Still, do it. Get on the phone or visit the website of your ISP and opt out of every ad-related thing—and into every privacy-related thing—you can find. The process can be a little arduous—often requiring the use of your ISP-given email address that you probably never use—and it may not take effect immediately either. All the better reason to do it now.

Time Warner/Spectrum customers can find their privacy dashboard here. Comcast customers can opt out of some targeted programs using these instructions. Verizon customers can find opt out options here. Remember, your phone company is technically an ISP too, so look up your options on that front as well.

Opting out is an important first step, but it is not enough to actually preserve your privacy. Your ISP is not necessarily giving you the opportunity to opt out of all its ad-targeting programs. As the policy counsel at the Open Technology Institute, Eric Null, told Gizmodo, it is "highly unlikely" the new FCC will go after ISPs that aren't offering robust opportunities to opt-out.

Some smaller ISPs, which survive on small and satisfied customer bases as opposed to a large and captive audience, are more incentivized to protect your privacy with gusto. In fact, a whole host of small ISPs wrote a letter to Congress opposing this move. If you're lucky enough to have the option of switching to one, now might be a good time.

Keep your data out of your ISP's hands in the first place

Your ISP is uniquely suited to snoop on your information. Anything you put online has to pass through its hands. Email you send through Gmail, chats through Facebook Messenger—they all travel through your ISP before they reach the service that actually sends them on. But while it is impossible to cut your ISP out of this exchange entirely, you can hide the data as you are sending it.

Apps with end-to-end encryption can encrypt your private information on the phone or computer you're using, ensuring that it is coded and protected through the entire delivery process. So while your ISP can see the data go by, they can't make sense of it.

Secure chat apps like Signal will be crucial to keep your chats private not only from the government and hackers, but from your ISP. Just make sure these services have security measures that are open-source and trusted by experts who can help keep them honest. You can also encrypt data manually, using a standard like PGP, before you send it off into the web, but it can be an arduous process, because you have to ensure that the recipient has the means to decode that info and read it.

The most seamless solution is to pay for a Virtual Private Network—a VPN—which allows you to encrypt all the data that passes through your ISP. This means that while your ISP is still doing the work of hauling your data around, it can't understand any of it. The downside to this is that VPNs (at least any VPNs you can trust) are not free. Most good ones will require a yearly subscription. Furthermore, you aren't hiding your personal data from everyone, you are just entrusting it to the VPN instead of your ISP, so do your research and choose a VPN you trust not to sell you out. Fortunately, since VPNs exist exclusively to keep your data private, they are pretty incentivized to keep you happy.

The only one you can really trust to protect you is you.

The short and uncomfortable truth is this: Until more robust privacy protections are put in place, the burden of protecting your online data falls on you. Keep it in mind, do your research, and remember that your monopolized ISP has every reason in the world to sell you out and wring your data for every dime that it is worth. The only one you can really trust to protect you is you.

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Art Van Delay's picture

Windows on a VirtualDrive and browse with VPN and use only ProtonMail

But sooner or later your info will get into public domain... It happened even to household names such as Hillary so it's easier to happen to a mere peasant 

JackT's picture

Brave browser - built in VPN

espirit's picture


HH had it right, unpossible.

It's easy to record, maticulated to interpret.

FreddieX's picture

Opera has a VPN option built in


TOR's android client browser is very good:


No Lie:
Somebody will be able to overcome any encryption technique you use!
Noam Chomsky

Zero Point's picture

Jesus. I never really envisioned the day I would actually NEED TOR.

old naughty's picture

we are really useful idiots if we believe CONgress only sold us out now, finally?

Wulfkind's picture

Thanks, Republicans.

So much for their bullshit about "freedom"

lil dirtball's picture

Popular Mechanics? LOL!

The same spook rag that touts the official 9/11 story? L0l ... what a source.


"It's propaganda. It softens your brain while you read."

"Mmmm ... sounds sublime."

"You're soaking in it!"

Bendromeda Strain's picture

I can only assume it must have been Madge who down voted you from the Langley basement.

Tactical Joke's picture

Truthers and their complete lack of understanding of science can sod off. We have real threats to worry about but you completely destroy our credibility with this nonsense.

While we can debate who ordered the attack until we're blue in the face, planes brought down those buildings.

Downvote away, bitches.

max-kisser's picture

Ever come across cloudflare? It blocks many sites from tor users. So good luck with that.

I have decided to hide in plain site - that is completely open - no hiding anything - one of the sheep. Thats my tactic.

FreddieX's picture

Site blocking of TOR is uncommon - usually a misguided attempt to stop "bots":
makes a new connection to the site using a new exit node.
Very few sites are unreachable.

Common_Cents22's picture

why would google allow a tor in app store?

AVmaster's picture

Dude, are you serious?


They just take that shit anyways...

You signed a license agreement when you got internet service...




divingengineer's picture

Yes, you need a TRUSTWORTHY vpn.
If you have that all they can see is encrypted gobblygook.
They will see that you logged into a secure connection, that's it.
I use IP Vanish, they don't care if you torrent, good luck so far, 3 years now without issue.

AVmaster's picture

Windows on a virtual drive???




Anything connected to the internet is considered unsecure.... Networking Security 101... First thing the professor says when he walks in the door....


Oh, and microsoft spies on you more than anyone else, go google telemetry windows and how to remove it...


WINDOWS 10 is THE Biggest offender of all...

SgtShaftoe's picture

Yea, use linux. Or tails.

Art Van Delay's picture

That's why u put in on a VM so the main machine won't share anything with it.

I want to see who can take away data from a stopped VM on a hidden encrypted partition disk. 

Maybe those guys Sean Spicer talked about here

AVmaster's picture

You don't get it dude...


Win10 records EVERYTHING: Keystrokes, opened programs, you name it, and it sends it off to microsoft servers.

Unless you intend to run windows completely disconnected from the net, microsoft is spying on you.


Here's a former MS employee laying it all out:

AVmaster's picture

Theres still people out there that have overwhelming faith in something that they don't understand...

espirit's picture


I know that.

Suspended animation coming awake, and I'm 62.

AVmaster's picture

Welcome back!


Enjoy ur trip?


Youri Carma's picture


- Spybot Anti-Beacon
- Destroy Windows 10 Spying

Stop Microsoft Windows 10 Spying & Forced Application Installs. How to Take Back Control of Your PC
Prevent Windows 10 Spying - Privacy & Security Matter

Spybot Anti-Beacon

Destroy Windows 10 Spying (DWS) Walkthrough

Destroy Windows 10 Spying (DWS)

Why MICROSOFT Force Installs Software Without Permission

AVmaster's picture

Unfortunately, microsoft is now working on integrating telemetry in to system critical services/processes like explorer.exe or the kernal itself so that utilities like Spybot Anti Beacon can't completely turn off telemetry, and if you try, you render the operating system unusable...


Yes, its that bad...

Youri Carma's picture

Yeah, it's bad as it is but I agree it could get even worse. But if we get to that point I will make a multiboot with Linux purely for browing the internet and only use windows to execute progams I use on my comp.

Wulfkind's picture

Do some research.  There is a FOSS (Free and Open Source) version of just about anything you need that you are running on Windows for Linux.

My entire family has been Microsoft free for 5 years.  We pay $0 fir software.  Ubuntu and Linux Mint for the OS.  Groupware, graphics, office suite, games including STEAM service, etc.

All of it...without a trace of Microsoft or Window.  Haven't miissed a beat.

Google...(or DuckDuckGo..the search engine that doesn't track you) source alternatives to your favorite Windows programs.  You'll be surprised.  Many programs are multiversioned so you can use Windows, Mac or Linux.

HenryKissingerChurchill's picture

My entire family has been Microsoft free for 5 years.  We pay $0 fir software.  Ubuntu and Linux Mint for the OS.  Groupware, graphics, office suite, games including STEAM service, etc.

remember ALWAYS to unfuck ubuntu after every install...

code here :

lil dirtball's picture

Six or seven years ago, before every dipshit with a smartphone could access the internet, this conversation would look a lot different. Smarter, even.

man of Wool's picture

VMs are not 100% secure between the host machine and the VM. 

BarkingCat's picture

Use the Kaczynski network. It is very safe. Very Mission Impossible.

PT's picture

Just connect up a good random number generator to continually broadcast a stream of random numbers on the net.  The spooks will think you're using some kind of encryption and spend the rest of time trying to decode it.  In the mean time you are filling up their hard drives with gibberish.  The more people who do it, the more fun it becomes.  Except it might slow down the net.

PT's picture

Or mark all your communications "Ref:  Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Jon Corzine".  They might read your emails but none of it will ever see the light of day.

espirit's picture


I might want to look into your history because you're trying to hide something.

PT's picture

Every good business in the world has something to hide:  What it takes to send them bankrupt, be it how much debt they carry, or their patents and secret sauce, key employees etc etc.  The only people with nothing to hide are the people who have nothing.

I organize to borrow money from the bank then the boss turns on the screws at work.  Co-incidence?  Possibly?  Likely?  But why would I bother to ignore the paranoid angle?  We know it is possible.  We just don't know how probable.  (For ref, I cancelled the loan and walked away from that job because work had already annoyed me enough.  It could be a simple "we don't belong together" so I don't give good odds to the paranoia angle.  I just acknowledge that it is there.)

Nothing to hide?  An oldie but a goodie:
"Who was at the door?"
"Oh, just a nice man doing a survey.  He wanted to know if we had a pet dog or a burglar alarm and what nights we aren't at home."

PT's picture

"I know what went wrong ... I just didn't want it bad enough."
"Get me on that rocket tough guy, or I'll shoot this export can of Fosters."

Angelo Misterioso's picture

that was my thought also - need a program that generates so much garbage info that you create a massive haystack for them to look in - let it run all the time you are not using the can access every random innocuous corner of the internet and completely make your IP address as generic as possible...

SgtShaftoe's picture

Cheers for the protonmail recommendation. I really like protonmail. I was even part of the kickstarter and have the t-shirt. Great service.

LA_Goldbug's picture

"Swiss Privacy"

Huuuummm, I think this one has been destroyed by the Clinton/Obama duo for US citizens.

Cthonic's picture

Don't lull yourself into thinking that is any sort of speedbump in the road to the invasion of your privacy. Are you aware of how much telemetry and logging Windows, Chrome, IE, and Firefox partake in? MS Office? Visual Studio? Other crapps? Your router? Your DNS server? Your VPN? All the cross-domain javascripts you pull in from CDN's? Securing consistent anonymous access to WWW is a hopeless proposition for all but a handful of ubernerds.

LawfulPath's picture

Any security plan beginning with "Windows" is doomed before it starts. Begin with Linux instead.

Wulfkind's picture

Ahem....if you are using Windows you are failing right from the start.

Windows 10 constantly phones home to their servers with info about you AND even has a keylogger built in.  You can turn this off but only temporarily until the next update is sent out and then Microsoft turns it all back on without your permission.

Use Linux instead.  Preferably Ubuntu or a derivative of Ubuntu like Linux Mint.

And then a VPN.  And possibly the TOR as well.

Buck Johnson's picture

This will be changed and/or they will make new laws to negate this information.   Because right now nobody is going nuts but wait it will happen.


kommissar's picture

screw windows!  use a unix os of some sort.

MFL5591's picture

Leaving for Costa Rica, this is not America anymore!