The end of net neutrality is rapidly approaching and as the repeal of the Federal Communication Commission’s landmark internet privacy ruling goes into effect on April 23rd, many internet users are confused about how this will impact them and, most importantly, whether this will change normal internet activities.
- What it means to you and why you should care
Net neutrality ensured a free, fair, and open internet – a level playing field for all of its users. Its end means Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will hold more power than ever before. While much of the media and consumer attention has focused on how this could change the speeds of the information we send and receive across the internet, the end of this ruling has other implications.
While Facebook is facing congressional hearings over their monetization of private data, once net neutrality is ended, “ISPs will be able store and sell browsing data to advertisers, including details like consumer location, devices and browsing history,” said Amit Bareket, Co-Founder and CEO of SaferVPN. “Consequently, they will have the ability, even if unintentionally, to inflict severe risk to our cybersecurity.”
Even encrypted sites and data are not safe. “The proxies, which ISPs can use to intercept our data, remove encryption, read the data and then re-encrypt it before sending it back out, increase the risk of dangerous MiTM (Man-in-the-Middle) attacks,” adds Bareket.
This poses a number of concerns. Most alarmingly, the data ISPs collect could be hacked or unintentionally leaked.
- We are going to be stuck with this ruling… for a long time
To add insult to injury, this repeal forbids the FCC from passing any similar privacy-protecting regulations in the future so we are going to be stuck with the consequences of this repeal for the foreseeable future.
It is not the first time users’ online rights have been threatened, and it will not be the last. But it does leave open the opportunity for smart startups to create the market for fast secure and private internet.
- You can arm yourself with the right tools
With the array of apps and services in the market, there are a number of tools you can use to protect your privacy. A Virtual Private Network or VPN, for example, allows users to mask their actual IP addresses and browse through an encrypted tunnel.
“VPNs allow users to browse through a completely private network and surf anonymously online without being intercepted by hackers, ISPs, or other third parties,” says Bareket. “The combination of an anonymous IP address and bank-level encryption can prevent your digital footsteps from being tracked and your personal data from being exposed.”
If like me, you’ve sold your soul to Google, it might be time to renegotiate your contract. Browsers like DuckDuckGo and Tor help users to conceal their browsing and search activities, but you trade privacy for ease. Lastly, messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal allow individuals to send confidential messages with end-to-end encryption.
While we cannot predict how Internet Service Providers will take advantage of the end of net neutrality, we can arm ourselves with the tools needed to protect our digital rights.
By Adryenn Ashley