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Is Your Internet Privacy at Risk?

3-30-17

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

Every scroll and click: websites, movies, shopping, your bank, even your doctor. When you go online, your internet service provider, or ISP, will be allowed to track every move. And sometime soon, it will likely also be able to sell your browsing history to the highest bidder.

For the average subscriber, Nicole Clarke said, “That’s really alarming! Like, I don’t feel secure. Like, that’s — wow. Yeah. Wow. Why didn’t I know about that?”

Probably because Congress just voted on it. The Republican-sponsored resolution repeals the Obama administration’s FCC rules that would’ve forced internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and Cablevision to ask your permission first before they could collect and sell all your browsing data. The GOP considered that over-regulation.

“The rule adds costly and unnecessary innovation-stifling regulations to the internet and is another example of the federal government picking winners and losers,” said Congressman Leonard Lance.

“Make no mistake, this resolution is a gift to countries like Russia, who want to take our citizens’ personal information,” said Congressman Frank Pallone. “The facts speak for themselves. Consumers want more privacy protection, not less.”

It’s about choice. You can opt out on individual websites that collect browsing data. And you can shop around for browsing platforms, like Google. But you rarely get more than one option for broadband internet service. You’re stuck and privacy will be out of your control, says Rutgers Business School Professor Ashwani Monga.

“Our individual privacy, our individual freedom of what we can do, what actions we can take without others watching over us all the time,” Monga said. “And Big Brother’s going to make money off it, yes.”

“That would definitely be a problem for me. Privacy’s definitely an important issue,” said Brandon Tomasella of Wanaque.

“That’s kind of scary. So obviously, I think they did the wrong move there,” said Long Branch resident Carlo Murati.

While you can delete your browsing history, you can’t delete the data collected by ISPs — everything from the moment you log on. But some experts say not all information will be for sale.

“Definitely not identity information like your name, your birthday, your Social Security number, your home address,” said Rutgers Business School Professor Xiong Hui.

There’s one tool you can use to protect yourself. It’s called a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. It masks your activity from login to logout and most security experts recommend you get one soon. The president’s expected to sign the resolution.