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Internet Privacy Debate: What Privacy Means in 2017

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By now it is likely that you have read about the Internet privacy bill that Donald Trump just signed into law. Despite Obama signing a bill later into his term to curb Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) from collecting your data, this policy has not actually gone into effect. In essence, nothing is actually changing.

But now, Congress and the Executive branch have allowed the practice of data collection from ISP’s to continue. Think of it this way. You don’t pay Google or Facebook any money. You use their product and in exchange we agree they advertise to you. Can you say that about your ISP, who will now sell your information on to other advertising agencies?

Now you’re paying for a service, and being using as a resource as well. Do you think that’s fair and competitive? Probably not, but there’s not a lot we can do about it right now. In fact, it’s pretty analogous to a company you bought a microwave from to collecting your data on what food you prepare and selling that data to food companies to advertise to you.

Pretty shitty, right? Well, there’s a few things you can do both in practice and in mentality to help make way less bad.

Protect Internet Privacy With a VPN

vpn for internet privacy

It goes without saying that a good VPN (virtual private network) will go a long way in scrambling your IP address. This will make it way harder for ISP’s to track what you are looking up and can also make you appear like you are in a different country. I personally use Zenmate (and have been for years) because I like being able to set my browsing country.

This is especially helpful living in Europe if I want to watch American Netflix or use American Google, but it also is useful to reduce your internet footprint. A VPN isn’t going to solve all your problems, but it will go a long way in making your data less available to ISP’s and should always be used when browsing.

Understand That Advertising is Fundamentally Ridiculous

advertising is stupid

See this stock photo? It has Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco in it and was made to promote the movie Unfinished Business. It’s also really stupid. That’s kind of the point.

Advertising is also really stupid. In fact, millennials barely even respond to advertising. Maybe it’s because we’re broke and have college loans, or maybe it’s because we just aren’t as big of consumers, but the ‘social media generation’ already implicitly knows most of the tactics of advertising. From touching up photos on Instagram to our curated experiences on Facebook and Netflix, we’re all pretty much aware how advertising works anyway.

Instead of getting mad about being advertised to, it’s better to just understand that it’s fundamentally absurd. If social media has taught us anything, it’s that we want more authenticity in the products we actually buy.

Search For Dumb Things To Throw ISPs Off

dumb internet searches

This is actually my favorite tactic. It’s also way more apparent because of the nature of my marketing work. I often find professional searches I’ve made and websites of clients that I’ve crawled end up as Facebook ads on my Facebook feed. Of course, I have no consumer Internet in virtual data rooms or on-brand document creation, so its just amusing to me to see these come up.

I’ll also occasionally throw in an occasional weird search term like ‘How to murder a baby and get away with it’ (it’s 2017, we’re really doing dead baby jokes?) and see what products are advertised to me just for fun. Just look at it like a game. For example, if your actual interest is video games, search for pet products or visit pet-related websites instead, and see yourself get advertised pet products instead. You probably won’t buy these (especially if you don’t own a pet) and it will be a nice distraction from ads that might actually work on you.

At the end of the day, it’s pretty transparent how ISP’s have been using your data. While there’s nothing we can do to get it back (as we aren’t the EU and don’t get to have nice things like healthcare) you can make sure you’re aware of what you can do to curb its influence.

As Granddad from the Boondocks said, “What do you do when you can’t do nothing, but there’s nothing you can do? You do what you can?”

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