Everyone these days is concerned about how Google, Facebook, Amazon, and lots of other internet giants are storing and misusing their data. While these internet giants are really to be worried about, there is another entity we often neglect that is also responsible for storing and selling our data against our consent–or knowledge, of course.
So shall we turn a blind eye towards them and let them play with our data however they want? No. We’ll need to keep a distance between them and our data? How do we do it? We are going to learn just that shortly.
What is an ISP?
ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. They are the ones who provide you with internet bandwidth and network in exchange for your money. They are also responsible for assigning an IP address to you so you can be identified by the websites and other services on the internet.
What power does an ISP hold?
An ISP can:
- Monitor the websites you are visiting.
- Keep a record of it.
- The duration of your visit on a website.
- In case the website you are visiting is not protected by an SSL certificate, your ISP is able to watch your activities on the website (including your credit card information and other records)
- Your ISP can also identify your browsing pattern by analyzing the metadata your online visits provide to them.
- They can also identify if you are streaming a movie or using torrent to download some.
In short, your ISP holds much more power over your data than you may agree to. In fact, in some cases, your ISP may hold more data over you than Google and Facebook.
How do they use your data?
This is the most important question. What do they do once they have your data stored on their servers? Well, to start with, they can (and they do) provide/sell your data to third-party vendors such as advertisers, research companies, and other data-hungry organizations.
These ISPs are also responsible for providing your data to the Government which helps it to impose new policies and restrictions. In many countries, the internet isn’t available the way it should be. There are lots of restrictions, bans, and even penalties if you are caught misusing (freely using) the internet.
For example, in the U.S alone, the ISPs can sell your data to organizations as long as they hide your identity. Still, that doesn’t make sense. If your identity was really hidden, how would you still be receiving tailor-made ads?
Also, in the U.S, the most popular ISPs are the ones who have been involved in shady acts the most. For example, Verizon was caught using “supercookies” which would remain active even after you stopped browsing. Search a bit more and you will find such examples associated with almost every other ISP.
The Government has also taken notice of these “shenanigans” and the FTC is actively investigating the matter. Some states have individually taken steps to mitigate this risk by introducing laws that would require the ISP to ask permission from the individuals before selling their data.
How do you protect your data?
We won’t leave you high and dry. Here are some tips to keep your ISP away from your data.
You need to know whether the website you are visiting is fully protected or not. In case, the website you are visiting is not protected by an SSL certificate, your data could be stolen. How do you ensure that the website you are visiting is secured with SSL technology? You will need to check the lock icon in the top left of the URL bar. If there is no lock sign, it means that your data is unsafe. Also, when a website is secured with HTTPS, your ISP won’t be able to see your activities.
You may have heard a lot about Tor Browser in recent years. It was designed for the U.S Navy and is really beneficial for privacy lovers. Tor browser establishes a connection with the Tor network which encrypts your data into three layers and relays it over three different servers until it reaches the final server which is the website. Your ISP can’t access your data or recognize you when you use the Tor browser.
Using a VPN is not a luxury. It never was. In fact, it has become the need of modern times to use a VPN. A VPN is often better than the Tor browser as it doesn’t affect your internet speed as much as the Tor browser does. When you connect to a VPN, your data is sent to the VPN server which immediately masks your IP address and encrypts your data. When you use a VPN, the ISP isn’t able to track you as the IP address assigned to you is replaced with one of the VPN servers.