Your privacy is put at risk every time you go online. Your browsing habits and choice of apps and accounts do have a significant impact on your level of exposure. Social networks are among the biggest offenders, and that’s scary when you consider how many users they have.
Facebook has been accused of eavesdropping on people’s conversations, and there is some truth to this. Your phone’s microphone settings determine whether or not the social network can hear what you say. Tap or click here for three ways to make sure Facebook is not listening.
It seems we’re always finding new culprits when it comes to breaches of privacy. According to the Federal Trade Commission, your internet service provider is also spying on you. Read on for a simple way to block them.
The guilty parties
The FTC reviewed privacy practices of six ISPs and released a report last week. The results show that some ISPs invade privacy just as much as Google and Facebook.
The report notes that because of corporate takeovers and mergers, people are getting their internet, television, streaming and mobile services from just one or two companies. This means more available data from each consumer plus easier tracking.
The FTC issued orders to the country’s six largest ISPs: AT&T, Verizon, Charter, Comcast, T-Mobile and Google Fiber. The orders sought
information from these ISPs regarding data collection and use, along with what tools are provided to consumers to control these practices.
The collected information spans from July 2019 to July 2020 and includes publicly available information.
Your ISP probably has your contact and billing information. It might also have your birthday and information from your government ID, which is used to verify your identity and check up on your credit. This has become common practice.
ISPs also collect device information to establish a connection for your PC, Mac, smartphone, tablet, etc. Other factors like location are used to test signal strength in a specific area. Some information is collected to comply with legal requests, such as court orders.
It’s known that ISPs collect information to provide services to their consumers. The report showed that they are collecting additional data that isn’t needed for services. That extra information goes towards advertising.
ISPs also purchase data from third-party “data brokers” to target existing customers with ads and bring in new ones. An example from the report is an ISP purchasing a list of new homeowners in a geographical area.
If you are using one company for multiple online services, that company can combine what it learned about you through your account, browsing activity and streaming habits to create an extensive profile on you. That information can be used to hit you with ads or be bartered with a third party for more details about you and others.
How a VPN can help
A virtual private network hides your online activity from others, including your ISP. You connect to the VPN’s server, adding a layer of protection and keeping your location and IP address secure. Once you’re online, nobody can identify you or your device, as all your traffic goes through the VPN’s server.
Our sponsor ExpressVPN is one of the fastest and easiest-to-use VPNs you can find. With more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations across 94 countries, you’ll always find one that’s right for you.
Not only does a VPN protect privacy, but connecting to other locations can give you access to content you usually wouldn’t have. For example, connecting to Netflix in the U.K. will offer a different selection of movies and shows than what you get in the U.S.