How to Stop ISPs From Selling Your Data

Andrew Orr In the News

Government Regulations

Republicans in Congress have chosen to allow ISPs to collect your data and sell it to advertisers. Every single Democrat voted against it. This is an awful move for the American people and turns ISPs into predators. Is it possible to stop ISPs from stalking you?

Repeal of Privacy

Earlier this week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to repeal privacy rules from the Obama administration. The FCC had rules in place that stopped internet service providers (ISPs) from sharing their customers’ web activity with third parties. The rules were passed in October but were just voted away. Congress also made sure the FCC could not create similar regulations in the future. To no one’s surprise, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a press briefing that the White House supports the changes.

How a VPN Can Help

A virtual private network (VPN) is a private network that you can use to connect to the web. The provider has a set of servers they use, much like an ISP. However, unlike your run-of-the-mill ISP, the VPN provider encrypts your connection. It routes your network traffic in a secure tunnel to the server, then out of the server and onto the web.

Any third party trying to snoop on your web browsing will be unable to do so. No one but a dedicated government agency would have the resources even to try it. Additionally, when you send data out, it looks like it is coming from the VPN server and not you. You can take advantage of this. For example, when you watch Netflix in a country that doesn’t allow it, using a VPN with servers in the United States will let you watch Netflix.

You have to be careful since your VPN provider can mostly access the same data your ISP can access. If you pick the wrong VPN service, it can still see all of the web pages you browse or worse. You want to pick a good provider that is transparent about the data it collects. Carefully examine each vendor’s privacy policy to see what they do and don’t do.

What Do You Need?

Using a VPN is not just about privacy. Many employees use them to access their company’s intranet. If a businesswoman is on a plane and needs to access something from her work, she’ll probably use a VPN to do it. Uses for a VPN include:

  • Avoiding government surveillance
  • Bypassing censorship
  • Connecting to your company network remotely
  • Keeping your data safe on public Wi-Fi
  • Hiding your torrenting activity if you’re a software pirate
  • Watching Netflix from another country

How a VPN Can’t Help

Keep in mind that a VPN will not make you anonymous. It just makes sure that no one can snoop on activity between your device and the Internet. A VPN can’t stop you from getting malware either. Plenty of companies offer VPN services, but that doesn’t mean the company has perfect security. It’s still possible for a hacker to attack a VPN provider. If the provider doesn’t log your data, great. That means there is less data that could be compromised if it happens.

Right now, the main thing people have to worry about is the mass collection of their Internet data. Using a VPN can help with this but you must be diligent. There are other ways to track you that a VPN cannot combat. We recommend testing your browser for trackers, Opt out of any that are targeting you, and installing browser plugins like HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger.

You’re shifting your trust from one company to another. Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, a senior staff technologist at the EFF, says:

“VPNs are essentially a way of moving your trust. Normally, you trust your ISP not to snoop on you, but if you can’t trust your ISP anymore, you can pay somebody else.”

A bad VPN can just as easily sell your browsing history as any rogue ISP. It could even use your bandwidth as part of a botnet. That is why it’s important to choose a VPN provider like LiquidVPN. LiquidVPN is a privacy-first provider and doesn’t log unnecessary data.

Is There Anything Else?

If you are committed to your privacy, you can use Tor. Using Tor is the closest thing you can get to being anonymous. It is still not perfect, but better than most solutions. Using Tor along with a VPN is a one-two punch to ISPs who would sell your data.

Other tools to use for privacy include adblockers, email providers that use encryption, and messaging apps that use encryption. LiquidVPN has a guide for all of these tools, so check them out and stay safe.