Online privacy

JUST recently, the US Congress basically rolled back a regulation from back in October 2016 that directly affects online privacy. That regulation basically put down a set of requirements that need to be followed by internet service providers before they can share or sell their customers’ private and sensitive data. Last March 28, in case you missed it, that regulation was voted to be rolled back. Rolled back meaning overturned.

What remains to be done now is for President Trump to sign that rollback. Once signed, internet service providers can now monitor any of their customers’ behaviors while being online. And aside from that they can also use personal data and financial data to target ads. And not forgetting that they can also sell the data to anybody who wants them especially data mining companies.

I don’t know exactly if that’s going to affect our online data as Filipinos considering that we use a lot of US online services - Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Wordpress, Amazon, Google - to name several. I’m not aware of any Philippine legislation that allows or prohibits our internet service providers here to sell our private data. But because the internet is such a borderless place, I’d err towards the “paranoid” side and advice that you protect yourself.

How? The common answer that I get is to use a Virtual Private Network or a VPN. A VPN basically is a buffer between you and the website you are engaging with. Traffic between you two are encrypted. What your internet service provider will see (if they are snooping in) is that you’re connected to a VPN server. That’s it. And if you can’t use a VPN or don’t want to use one, the least advice I can give is that you make sure that the website you’re visiting is using the HTTPS protocol and not the regular HTTP. At the very least, your internet service provider will just see which website you’re visiting but won’t see the data you and the website are exchanging.

Still, a VPN is more secure.

Of course, there are a myriad of other ways out there to protect yourself and to keep your private data, well, private. I suggest we all do our due diligence and research more about what kind of data we ought to share online and what we don’t have to. We also need to learn more about encryption and using that to our advantage in order to protect us.

Whatever and however you want to approach this topic of protecting oneself in the wide wide world of the internet, I hope you implement it right away.

Oh, and one more thing, please stop using easy to remember passwords for your sensitive accounts especially your email. I could not stress this enough. Just. Don’t.

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