The US Government just reverted back to the pre-Obama privacy laws, allowing ISPs to track & sell our web histories. Since you are on their network they basically have more information on you than your own parents. ISPs technically know your address, phone numbers, emails, chat IDs, Skype IDs, banking information and everything else there is to know about you. And it’s not just you, your family, friends, parents and colleagues are all there too.
Instead of arguing over just how we got here and didn’t we elect Trump to make America great again? Let’s put our minds to some creative strategy formulation. What are we going to do about this massive invasion of privacy and stop ISPs web history tracking?
10 Ways to Defeat ISP Web History Tracking in the USA
While those who don’t care will never care, if you care as much as a sesame seed about your online privacy you will definitely look for ways to stop the ISP web history snooping. Below is a 10 step strategy to protect your online activities, communications and critical information from their newly gifted ISP web history tracking bill.
- Use a Virtual Private Network
Possibly the best advice anyone will give you to secure yourself from ISP web history tracking law is using a VPN or Virtual Private Network. It is the single most powerful & effective tool that will cause your ISP web history snooping to go redundant.
A VPN secures you by routing your ISP connection to a server based in either your own country (for local secure IP address) or another country (for international secure IP address). Once this connection is established all your browsing activities, form data, banking, shopping, chats and everything else passes through what is known as an encrypted & secure tunnel.
You are assigned a new IP address by the VPN server (local or international), allowing you to go invisible even for your ISP. All your ISP will see is a connection between your device and a client server. All your data will be ciphered into mathematical based code that only the VPN app can decode.
Being a VPN reviewer I began using these privacy services some 6 years back while studying in the United Kingdom. It was essential since crackdowns on downloading torrents had begun, with copyright companies tracking web users to their dwellings. After 3 years of intense seeding & leeching I can assure you, VPN are the best way to defeat ISP web history monitoring. I would suggest trying out super speed ExpressVPN which also offers a 30 days money back guarantee, PureVPN a Hong Kong based privacy legend, IPVanish a brilliant streaming VPN and Romania based ibVPN for a great overall package.
- Use an Ad-Blocker or Script Blocker
An ad-blocker or script blocker is the first line of defense when it comes to diffusing ISP web history retention. Every website or webpage is made up of certain elements, these may include videos, articles, advertisements, audio files and pop up ads. An ad-blocker or script blocker keeps track of all marketing & advertising script that loads on every website you visit.
Ad blockers also offer the distinct advantage of keeping track of all advertisers or online services that follow you around on every website that you visit. The script blocker powers itself on every time an advertising script is trying to load itself in your browser. Once blocked the advertising script can no longer show you ads or track you all over the internet.
Usually, most script blockers aka. Ad-blockers, maintain a proper database of domains that load media on websites you visit regularly. For example, my Privacy Badger script blocker maintains a list of all marketers that use cookie data to deliver ads on my YouTube. Hence, no ads on YouTube for me either.
- Use Mozilla Firefox instead of Google Chrome
Google Chrome is not really the caring online friend you have giving you access to all its services through its signature browser. It may display notification when websites ask for your location or ask to run scripts on a page, but all your data is being retained on Google servers. Google Chrome is a massive privacy killer and no matter what the company or its affiliate tell you, stop using Google Chrome browser.
Mozilla Firefox is an open source project browser, even TOR browser is built on Mozilla’s infrastructure. The browser does not record keystrokes like Chrome, does not complete your searches and blocks scripts by default in case they are threatening to your devices. I have been using Mozilla Firefox for all my email, social and online shopping activities, it has worked absolutely fine for me.
You can also indulge in using TOR browser, commonly referred to as The Onion Router Browser. The name comes from the browser’s ability to route your connection through series of nodes on its network, or, for the layman like the layers of an onion. I won’t lie though, TOR is a terribly slow browser and sometimes lacks behind in updates to latest plugins required to offer a good browsing experience. As secure as TOR is, the compromise on speed & functionality completely turned me off for the browser.
- Use an Internet Security Suite
An internet security suite maybe a tool from the past, but a useful one it certainly is. Most internet security suites are built with a huge range of tools that power your device & online security. For instance, my ESET Smart Security software provides features including:
- superb protection against spyware (a common ISP web history tracking & advertising tool)
- online banking & shopping security
- security against malware & ransomeware
- child security features
- built in firewall
Always consider an internet security suite for your device to ensure most threats are mitigated before they even reach your browser screen. This includes malicious scripts your ISP used to track web histories.
- Change your DNS Settings
A computer does not communicate with other computers in Spanish, English, French, German, or Arabic as we usually do, they communicate using numbers. When you type in an address, your router translates the website name into a number then communicates with a DNS (Domain Name Server) and requests the website for you.
This concept of Domain Name Servers can also be regarded a phone directory for the internet. Every ISP has its own phone book that lists websites in their original form, numbers. When you are using a particular ISP like Verizon, Comcast or Virgin media etc. your DNS or phone book is the one provided by that ISP. Thus no matter what you do everything that you search for, say, type, buy, see or hear is logged straight to the ISP’s servers.
While there are several Open DNS available to use, we are never really assured who owns the DNS and what they can do with your data. You can always request your VPN service to provide you with its secure DNS address. I have used my VPN provider’s DNS for the past 2 years, sometimes websites load slower but it’s worth the trip.
- Don’t needlessly fill out forms for freebies & offers
Everyone loves freebies and gifts, but is it really worth throwing your precious personal preferences & information for a t-shirt. Avoid these ridiculous forms that demand you give them your personal information and they will send you a book, bracelet, necklace, photo frame, toaster or USB stick. Primarily, the advertiser is getting your data directly, while ISP web history snooping is working in the background.
Consider your data precious, stop filling out forms for silly sweepstakes, offers, freebies etc.
- Stop using Facebook! You don’t need it anymore, trust me!
It’s time Facebook got regulated, or at least stopped calling itself a social networking platform. Facebook is not a social network anymore rather a pen full of sheep to deliver millions of ads every day. These ads are delivered using all the information either Facebook has intrusively stolen from you, or, bought from the ISP itself.
You can be there to connect with family, meet like-minded people, conduct business or create a Facebook page but those ISP cookies are stealing a lot more than what you signed up for. Although I work with social platforms all day, I still refuse to re-create an account on Facebook. All I ever get is relentless isp social web tracking, public feeds from offensive pages and false propaganda tagged as news.
In the beginning of 2016, Mr. Zuckerberg unveiled what must have been a great achievement for him & his company. For me, Facebook was invading a very critical privacy right, displaying my location without consent to the entire world. Yes, just by targeting the location of users’ devices, FB could create a real time map of where people are at that moment. And this ladies & gentlemen is just the tip of the iceberg!
- Stop checking-in/tagging your location everywhere you go
It’s nice to share your location from a restaurant, theme park or a public recreational spot, but needlessly sharing your location from school, college, libraries, business places, work and your bathroom are not cool. Since you don’t have proprietary rights to your own photos, I would recommend keep location tagging to a minimum low.
Even your mobile 3G/4G ISP will retain web history after President Trump’s ascent for the ISP Bill. This location data is crucial for marketers to see what places you visit, what food you eat, what apparel you buy and more.
- Use VPN when shopping & banking online
Always keep our VPN on when browsing for clothes, electronics, books, groceries etc. online. This is the most rigorously monitored activity by ISPs since it defines what kind of person you are. It is also recommended to protect your banking information and activity from the ISP web tracking goons, since you never know who can get their hands on this data now.
Always keep you VPN on when doing anything related to shopping, banking or financial transfers. The concept is simple, if you don’t have rights to manage your own online data & privacy then no one does.
- Contact Your Congress Representative
Although I have listed it at number 10, the first thing to do is contact your representative you elected for government. The congressman or congresswoman responsible for upholding your rights should definitely feel pressured and begin the process of opposing these ISP web tracking regulations. It is also a great idea to begin a petition, getting it signed by the maximum number of people against the notion of data retention.
Unless your elected representative is a Republican, you will make great strides in denouncing and fighting against President Trump’s absurd ISP web tracking U-turn.
Why VPN is the Solution for ISP Web History Tracking Retention
I may sound biased but I have been using VPN for over 5 years now ever since the MPAA got on the case of torrent downloaders & indexing services. I got reported in 2011 while studying in the United Kingdom and a proper warning letter was sent to my dorm address requiring I cease downloading copyright material. After that day I never used torrents without a VPN and just made it my regular habit to turn it on everywhere in my phone, tablet and laptop.
Tunneling Protocols & Encryption
The primary reason VPN are the ultimate solution to prevent ISP web tracking process is attributed to two of its core features:
- Tunneling Protocols
- Data Ciphering or Encryption
So, what exactly do these two features do?
If you notice in the diagram above when you connect a VPN service (for example with a VPN server in Canada) your connection with the internet goes invisible. Working together, tunneling protocols (indicated by the blue two way tunnel) and data encryption (indicated by the red outline) ensure you are hidden from everyone on the public internet while all information flowing through the VPN tunnel is coded to make no sense to ISPs, Government surveillance and cybercriminals.
Tunneling protocols are used to literally create a virtual tunnel through the internet that makes you go invisible online. Encryption algorithms then completely cipher/code your data ensuring that no one but the intended recipient can get the decoded information.
Multi User Connectivity
Apart from the core technology, VPN service also offer great features including multi device login with one account. Yes, you can secure multiple devices including that of your family with a single VPN account these days. Some provider even offer connectivity on up to 20 devices. Some prominent providers including ExpressVPN, PureVPN, and IPVanish offer 5 simultaneous users when using their VPN apps.
Internet Kill Switch & Auto Reconnection
Another great set of features that torrent downloaders & online shoppers will love are the internet kill switch and auto reconnect feature. For those who are not experts with VPN the internet kill switch is a brilliant feature to have in case the VPN connection disconnects. The kill switch feature suspends all online activity until you reconnect the VPN. To complement the Internet Kill Switch, VPN providers offer the auto reconnect feature ensuring that you never go unprotected against ISP web tracking.