Friday, April 21, 2017

Do You Need a Private Browsing Tool to Keep Your Data Safe from Your ISP?

Do you need to worry about the recent government decision to allow your ISP to sell your browsing history? Maybe. Just remember to keep it in perspective.

First, consider the data that might be sold. There are two very different types. The first is personal data. This links you personally to the internet browsing you do. For example, you visited the following ten sites today and went to these specific pages. Or you Googled a certain product or service.

The second kind of data is "meta" data. That's aggregated data divided by demographics. Males over fifty in your neighborhood tend to go to certain sites and shop for specific things.

Note: Lots of your browsing is already tracked by Google, Facebook, YouTube, and many other sites. Have you ever shopped for something on Amazon and then immediately started seeing related ads on Facebook? That's because your browsing has instantly been sold in what are called "remarketing" campaigns.

That's a little creepy, but most of us are not too worried about it.

Search engines have been blasting you with advertising since the earliest days of the Internet. And they've been selling both personalized and meta data in addition to that. Now your ISP (Internet service provider) want to do the same thing.

Many people are upset that this is just another place where all your information can be stored and therefore stolen. That's not much of a legitimate concern in this case, however. This data will all be related to Internet browsing habits and NOT personal data such as birthday, address, and Social Security Number.

What Can You Do (without being a techie)?

Option One: Nothing. We're not talking about truly personal data here. This is really just one more kind of company selling detailed browsing information. If you haven't got a good anti-virus, spam filter, and backup, please take care of those first. If you still want to "anonymize" your browsing, read on.

Option Two: Use a "VPN" Product. PC Magazine put together a review of VPN (virtual private network) or Private browsing tools recently. Check it out at,2817,2403388,00.asp. That page has information on nine different products.

One very odd note: Several of these products have a "free" option and advertising. This makes no sense to me whatsoever. If you get the free option with ads, all you've really done is pay a company to use your meta data to serve you ads instead of letting the ISP serve you ads.

Free never is. So don't choose that option.

You probably have to be a little technical to install a VPN product, configure it, and use it. For most of these products, you have to enable it when you want it - you are not automatically protected just because you installed it!

Best Option: Get Professional Advice. Talk to your technology consultant and see what they recommend. If you've picked a product, have them figure it out and show you how to configure and use it. They may not have seen it before, but a good I.T. consultant will be able to figure it out quickly. And they'll know what all those crazy security acronyms mean.

Good Luck!