“Thanks” to the recently-passed S.J.Res. 34, ISPs now are legally permitted to sell the Internet access history of their customers. Good job, you crooks.
This is a bald-faced sellout by a Congress intent on wringing every dollar they can for their corporate buddies from the public. Had Ma Bell tried to sell our phone history back in the day, new management would have been quickly installed by a mob armed with torches and pitchforks. Do we really want to live in a world where our every action is available for purchase?
I don’t. So I bought a bear. Specifically, a TunnelBear.
The delivery may be whimsical, but the idea behind it is sound. If our ISPs are legally allowed to sell our private browsing history to the lowest bidder, it falls to us to leave them nothing to sell.
VPNs are nothing new. The name “Virtual Private Network” is pretty accurate — it allows you to securely and privately join a remote network by exchanging encrypted communications over an untrusted link (the Internet in general and now even our own ISPs.)
So TunnelBear.com (for free, for the first 500MB per month, or unlimited for a low-cost subscription) allows users to securely and automatically connect to various networks that they have set up around the world. ISPs only see encrypted browser traffic to TunnelBear’s servers, not the contents or even the final destination. You browse as usual, and the requests come from some anonymous server in … wherever the VPN server is.
Non-techie analogy: The “bear” (the VPN software and VPN servers) securely “tunnels” your data to another location, so your ISP can’t see what you’re doing and sell your private data.
There’s a bit of a performance hit, but not as bad as you’d expect. My 150/150 FiOS connection got me about 75/50 through the VPN, which should be more than enough for even HD video. More importantly, inbound ports still work — TunnelBear seems to only catch outbound browser traffic.
With the recent political climate, I think we’re going to see more VPN providers. The peace of mind is worth it.