As you know by now, a pretty epic decision was recently made – a decision that feels like it’s pushing the world ever faster into the futuristic (but nightmarishly current) dystopias depicted in the series “Black Mirror”.
Seriously, watch Black Mirror already. If you’re not paranoid about the modern world yet – welcome to Insomnia101.
The decision to pass SJ Res 34 passed by 215 votes to 205. One can josh that the Senators who voted FOR the repeal don’t really understand all that complicated Internet stuff, and just wanted to get rid of anything to do with Obama. Ironic that the people who screeched the hardest about the NSA whistle-blowing seem OK with this latest turn of events, but that’s a struggle anthem for another binge-drinking sesh.
So now, whoever you pay to provide you with internet access will be able to sell everything they know about your Internet use to third parties without so much as a who’s-your-daddy.
I wasn’t kidding. Watch Black Mirror. Yes, it is that guy from Rocknrolla.
“So what?” you might be saying to yourself. “I’m not worried about some sci-fi TV show you’re obsessed with; and also Facebook and Google use algorithms to track my use, which is why I keep getting those adverts popping up trying to sell me shit. That’s life.” Think again, friendo.
Facebook knows everything about you because you’re always logged in, and you probably use your Facebook login to get into other sites because it’s easier than logging in with your mail addy, then getting the verification blah blah blah – all that irritating stuff that you just don’t feel like doing when you’re slumped on the couch with your smartphone in one hand and an overpriced bottled beverage in the other. Facebook shoves all this information into a pile and shows you ads.
Sometimes it feels like bad voodoo – like why you’re suddenly seeing ads for that overpriced bottled beverage in your hand, right now. But this is over-the-counter, in-your-face advertising that you’ve already agreed to. Unless you’ve been living under a large boulder for decades and have only just been rescued from a feral existence and had a Facebook profile made for you by a compassionate social worker, you’re probably kind of OK with this setup.
Look at this damn boulder. A whole village of feral people with no Facebook could live under this thing.
Google does more or less the same thing – it uses your search results plus various services like Gmail to paint a (probably unflattering) picture of who you are. You’re logged into Gmail 24/7 – who isn’t? – and you probably have Chrome as your default browser – so all your stuff gets back to Google and they’re allowed to use it. You’re letting them use it. It’s part of the deal of using a free platform.
The alarming repercussions come from the fact that your ISP now has the same God-…er, government-given right to idly sift through your information – and you don’t need to be logged into anything, or opt into anything, for them to do this.
They know about the sites you visit, when you visit them, and for how long. Even if you’re not someone who watches porn or tries to buy illicit drugs online, nameless persons are still sniffing around your Internet usage. So if you’re someone who leans to the left socially but to the right in your pants, you grow orchids, and have lower back pain – you might spend a lot of time on sites that a) are leftist, b) have a lot of pants, c) sell organic fertiliser (because bombs) and d) pharmaceuticals – THEY KNOW YOU. ALL OF YOU. ALL THE TIME.
They’re comfortable to sit around the house, OK? Maybe just go out to the shops quickly. Stop judging me.
They can see the things you do online, read your emails and search results, and can search what you typed into a specific webpage – IF the websites you visit are not secured with HTTPS.
Before you start to panic and dip into your meagre savings to buy a one-way ticket to Papua New Guinea to start a new business braiding white-girl hair – most of the big sites use HTTPS. And it’s not that easy for ISPs to use this massive dump of information and change it into sweet, sweet $$$s. So chances are, it’s just not going to be that cost-effective for most companies to employ a few hapless graduates to wade through a planet-sized cesspool of info – of which yours is just a tiny little amoeba, eddying here and there in its harmless little single-celled way, trying to swallow whatever fecal matter comes near enough.
Thing is; ISPs have always been allowed to clamber into your dumpster and mouth your garbage like a hungry raccoon, but now they don’t have to worry about telling you they’re doing this to you, and they don’t have to worry about any pesky multi-million dollar fines that may potentially arise.
So, you ask, with tears running down your haggard face, your hair wrenched awry and your hand nervously trying to rearrange the contents of your drop-crotch pants – what can you do about it?
1. Log the hell out of Facebook and Gmail
Look. Let’s talk about modern distractions. We all love that little dopamine rush that comes from getting likes and comments, or some cleverly worded message from that time you got lonely and hit up your local dating site (sorry, it’s probably a bot or an incoming dick pic). The thing is – you’re logged into those FREE platforms, and you’ve therefore opted into their ninja info-gathering powers. If you log out of Gmail, and switch your search engine to Startpage or DuckDuckGo.
This duck looks pretty cheerful about the quackdown on your privacy. Fine, fine, bad joke, I’m leaving. Don’t you put your hands on me!
2. Use a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, can block your ISP’s ability to see what you are doing. But, let me explain something to you: your VPN also has financial incentives to sell you out. Dig deep into that wallet and pay for a good VPN. The free providers are way more likely to not give a rat’s ass about your privacy. A good VPN means it’s fast. Who has time to sit around?
3. Use a different search engine
We all love Google. I mean, it’s an incredible tool, and a fantastic company – the CEOs go to Burning Man and hang out with Elon Musk, Susan Sarandon, and various Victoria’s Secret supermodels from various cocaine-producing countries, right? Living the dream.
Sergey Brin, Elon Musk and Sean Parker at Burning Man. Lol jk. With THOSE abs?
Trouble is, Google is one of the biggest companies in the world, even though it’s “just” a search engine – everything you type in its beautifully and topically cartoon-illustrated box is logged and connected to you, and sold on.
The solution is simple – try a different search engine. There’s WolframAlpha, there’s DuckDuckGo (we’re not being paid by them, I promise – but it’s a DUCK, ffs. Ducks rule). A few extra seconds of your time can stop your stuff being sold on and ending up where you didn’t expect. This isn’t like when you donate old clothes and see a drunk street person wearing your college jersey. Because that’s awesome.
4. Grow a pair, and ask your ISP about opting out
This doesn’t come naturally to lots of us, who think that Big Comms runs the show, and that small users put up and shut up. They’re giant corporations – but they still need your business. Do to your ISP what they’ve been doing to you – staring into your VERY SOUL.
Damn. Your soul is some nasty shit.
Ask them what their policies are, what info they’ve been sneaking around in (maybe word this a bit more diplomatically – those call center guys don’t get paid enough to deal with our passive-aggressive attempts at humor). Ask what info they’re allowed to sell off, and what you have to do to opt out. They HAVE to tell you what you can opt out of. Get them to direct you to the opt-out page. Opt out.
Hit big corporations where it hurts – in the bank. If people start shunning them like lepers and taking their business to where their privacy isn’t compromised – they’re going to start feeling the pinch. OK, it’s not so much a pinch as a caress that’s a bit less loving than the all-inclusive massage they’re used to, but still.
5. Start lobbying lawmakers to overturn this decision
You can start here. It’s a small step, but think about it – the more we RISE UP in our filthy, semi-educated, unwashed masses (yeah yeah, I know, you showered yesterday; or at least meant to, dammit) and complain about these policies, the more we put the fear up the intestinal tracts of the big companies – and the people who get paid by big companies with lobby funds and “donations”, to make these fuck-the-masses policies happen.
No, this isn’t the kind of fear YOU’RE used to – disease, death, trying to move out of your parents’ house before you hit 40, the car alarm down the road (FYI it’s probably not cops) – but the VERY REAL AND WAY MORE IMPORTANT fear of company revenue loss. And not being voted for, come next elections.
Take a look at yourself, in the mirror. Focus – don’t let yourself be distracted by things like “damn, why do I keep going to that hairdresser” or “why is one of my eyes bigger than the other? WHAT KIND OF SO-CALLED EVOLUTION ALLOWS THIS TO HAPPEN??”
Gnarrr. Look at it. LOOK AT IT.
Ask yourself in the mirror: “Do I look like a prostitute? Do I feel like one?” Frankly, there’s zero reason for your representatives to let your ISPs treat you like a damn whore. It’s Internet Service Provider, not “Information Sold for Profit”, gawdashit!
And if you ARE a prostitute, more power to you – and all the more reason you want your online privacy protected!