March 23rd will be remembered as the beginning of the end for internet privacy in the US.
The Congress made its first move to nullify the last year’s broadband privacy rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which made ISPs obligated to ask for an explicit consent from users in order to be able to sell their collected information.
On March 28th, the US House of Representatives voted to approve this motion in a 215-205 vote.
The Resolution was signed by President Trump on April 4th, marking the end of an era.
How does this affect average users?
This nullification means that your chosen ISP is now free to disclose any information it has on you to advertising agencies or the highest bidder(s).
And it has a TON of information on you – from your sleeping habits, browsing habits, to your medical condition; banking information, social security number; how many children you have, and maybe even who your friends are.
As Senator Nelson said iterated earlier, this information is immensely valuable to the right entity, and it is little wonder why ISPs want to be able to sell this data.
Unfortunately, though, this will be without consumer consent, transparency, or accountability.
Rep. Capuano had a slightly banal, yet to the point, depiction of this Resolution’s implications, “Just last week I bought underwear on the Internet.
Why should you know what size I take or the color?” He explained that ISPs can now take this info and sell it to an underwear company, resulting in user being spammed by the underwear ads.
He also said, “Give me one good reason why Comcast should know my mother’s medical problems.”
A lot has been said in these last couple of weeks, and there’s no point in repeating the Democrats’ futile attempts at preserving the last shreds of our dignity and privacy, or the rigid arguments of the Republicans.The winter has indeed come, and it is time to see what we can do about it.
What can average users do to preserve their privacy?
For years the government has battled against the dark web, its illicit connotations, dark web marketplaces, and the unique strata of users.
And it’s ironic to think that even the most law-abiding Americans will now turn to methods of surfing the dark web in an attempt to escape from Big Brother’s watchful eyes.
What about the dark web community? Well, dark web users actually have an advantage with this situation – compared to the average user, they are used to this living-on-the-edge online existence, and they already know what to do and how to do it.
In short – be more cautious! Frequent dark web users know that their every move online can be monitored and every connection intercepted; so they use certain tools in order to stay anonymous:
1. They use the TOR Browser.
2. They invest in a decent VPN.
3. They use reliable PGP encryption software for their communications on the dark web.
4. Use an anonymous email service.
Every dark web user knows that TOR itself isn’t enough to preserve online anonymity, and with this bill now functional, users may as well be literally inviting the authorities to use your computer.
What does this mean for Dark Web users?
Well for starters, this means that your ISP is 100% logging EVERYTHING you do online whether it be on the clear net or darknet.
This also means that they will keep this information INDEFINITELY and have all the time in the world to sell it or give it to the feds.
This also means that you could be caught doing something illegal years in the future for something you did today.
This also means that EVERYTHING you write in emails can be read and analyzed! The feds can then make a profile how you write and then match your writing style to where you have written things over the dark web.
If alarm bells are not ringing in your head right now, they should be.
And don’t think for a second that this is a problem only related to the USA.
Some countries have already been doing this and more others are following suit in the name of “War On Terror”.
What can we do?
A HUGE piece of advice for anyone browsing the dark web – start using a VPN.
It’s best to use TOR over a VPN while on the dark web.
This means that you first start your VPN software and then TOR.
When you are not on the dark web you don’t need to use Tor anymore but still use your VPN.
You can find good VPN’s for use with Tor here.
All your ISP (and government) will know is that you have connected to the VPN server, but nothing beyond that.
All of your internet usage is fully encrypted and it’s not illegal to use VPN services, so you’re in the clear.
VPN use is most common for corporate use to connect staff to work servers remotely from different location, so it will just look like any other person working from home.
Alternatively, users can setup a VPN server on their own computer, which isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
Here you will find a complete guide on how to do this, but there are other ways as well.
Also, remember to start using anonymous email services or PGP encryption with the use of a VPN when email sensitive information.
Silkie Carlo of Wired definitely has a point in saying that 2017 will be the year when the web will become the dark web -or the other way around- for the majority of users.
Many users have noted that this move is a bit North Korea-ish, so what’s next? Are we to expect the Senate to propose a State-Approved Haircut Act? That’d be interesting but hopefully, won’t come to fruition.