Privacy and the Internet have never been comfortable bedfellows. The inherent nature of the Internet, in the minds of many, precludes the very idea of privacy. Of course, many of us do not agree, and citizen and consumer advocacy groups have long been very firm in their belief that simply because one is on the Internet, that should not mean he has abdicated a genuine right to privacy. Now, the Federal Communications Commission appears (finally) swayed by the idea that consumers should have some say about the kind of information collected on them by Internet service providers (ISPs), as well as how that information is used.
Some feel that ISPs have a particularly strong advantage when it comes to peering in on our online activity, because they are the very mechanisms that serve as our spacecraft as we fly through cyberspace. While it has to be understood that much of what is collected is necessary for ISPs to do their jobs, it is the repackaging of that information that has been poorly received by many.
However, a formal proposal, to be made March 31 by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, would put some requirements in place for ISPs…requirements that would give consumers a say in some of the disposition of their information. Notably, you would have the opportunity to opt out of programs that enable the ISPs to pitch you on other of their own, proprietary services, and, further, ISPs would have to secure your explicit consent before they could share any of your data with third parties.The proposal, however, is not a sure thing at this time, and telecommunications companies, to no one’s surprise, are strongly resistant to any government measures that would regulate their own privacy practices.
Even if Chairman Wheeler’s proposal becomes law, however, the beneficial (to consumers) provisions would represent just a tiny pushback against the numerous and wide threats to Internet-based safety and security that continue to plague those who’ve yet to do anything meaningful about them. On that note, I want to mention again the wonderful Patriot Privacy Kit digital book, and how I think it serves as a great manual for staying safe while roaming around online. I’ve previously highlighted the great information it has to offer on the subject of password protection, email security, even browser security (yes…even just using a less secure browser can compromise your security online), to name just a few important topics. Well, here’s another important area about which you’ll want to know more: having the ability to surf the web anonymously. Everyone who uses the Internet has an IP (Internet Protocol) address, and that is the route through which everyone and everything on the other side of your computer travels to send you information. It is your online address in every bit the way your residential address serves to tell the world how you can be physically located.
How would you like to be on the web…while hiding your location?
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large