If you're in the U.S., then you might have heard that new legislation passed allowing your internet service provider (ISP), to collect your browsing data and sell it to the highest bidder. Yes, that just happened. Yes, your privacy and your surfing habits are now up for sale.
Whatever you do on the internet from the privacy and comfort of your home will now be auctioned off to companies that want to know that. It may be for advertising purposes. Maybe they'll use it to make a profile of who you are and try to offer you a better deal on your next car purchase. But in the extreme case, if you like to consider long-term ramifications, this is the first step towards a real, bonified thought police.
Just think about it.
What if you think about something, and for whatever reason, you google it; you want to know more about it. Maybe you're an author trying to write a true-crime story. Maybe you watched a documentary on TV and want to find out more about whatever is in the documentary. Your searches, the websites you visited, the forums you asked questions in, all that information (at least) is now in the hands of somebody that will try to interpret your activity.
What will prevent a thought police body --ala Minority Report-- from assuming you want to commit a crime, setup an arrest warrant and put you in jail for that? Or worse, skip the warrant because the crime hasn't even been committed and simply hold you indefinitely. Best case scenario, your life is just turned upside down "just to be safe" or because you googled the wrong term, or visited the wrong website. What will prevent this?
At this pace it seems nothing will stop that nefarious scenario from playing its course; it's just a matter of time.
As consumers, we had protections before that restriction was changed, that would prevent companies like Cox Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T just to name a few, from spying on you. But thanks to our new president and the whole initiative to "deregulate" business, we now have lost those protections.
This new regulation, or rather de-regulation allows companies like the ones I listed above to be total and utter pieces of shit. On one side, they charge you for a service that is usually limited and lacking, and now on the other side, they will be selling the information about what you do in that service to the highest bidder.
[clickToTweet tweet="VPN or no VPN we're f*cked with the law against us." quote="VPN or no VPN we're f*cked with the law against us." theme="style3"]
Opera may be here to help. Maybe.
Opera is the browser that keeps on going, against all odds. Opera made it to market a little over 10 years ago and it quickly became a strong contender in the mobile browser space. But it never really took off as a desktop browser, it has been struggling on there for all 12 years of its existence. Recently, the company reengineered the browser to use the same engine as Chrome does, just so it could stay competitive.
But this new law may bring Opera into your radar for the first time, or give it another reason to keep it around and actually use it if you've had it there on your desktop collecting dust. Opera has always had cool little innovations that make the browser attractive to the ultra-geeky community. Things like the Rewind feature, or turbo mode, or parent tabs were always cool, but marginally useful.
But deep in the settings of Opera is a feature that might come into use now that we have the evil cable and dsl companies spying on you. A built-in VPN service. As of right now, the only viable way to hide your browser history and activity from the ISP is to use a VPN. I'm not going to get into the details of how a VPN works, or even what a VPN is, you should google that if you don't know because it will be important now and in the upcoming years.
But VPNs cost money. Not the break-the-bank type of money, but money nonetheless. Using a good VPN will cost you between $5.00 to $20.00 per month in addition to your existing Internet service provider. You may not be ready to pay the extra cash for a VPN, but Opera has your back. You can get Opera for free here.
I'm not sure about the quality fo the VPN or how secure it is, but it's one quick layer of additional privacy you can use while you get your stuff sorted out and decide whether to buy a proper VPN service or move to the mountains to be a hermit.
[clickToTweet tweet="Opera's free VPN helps with the privacy issues we're facing after Congress' screw up." quote="Opera's free VPN helps with the privacy issues we're facing after Congress' screw up." theme="style3"]
How to turn on the free VPN feature
Open up Opera and go to the address bar and type in: "opera://settings" or if you're using Opera to read this, just click on it: opera://settings. On the left-hand side click on the Privacy & Security section and then about two-thirds of the way down you'll see an option to "Enable VPN" check that, and you'll be set.
Again, I don't know how secure this VPN is. SurfEasy Inc provides it. I don't know the relationship between SurfEasy and Opera, but I know that they are of the leading VPN providers right now. Additionally, they seem to be in tune with what's going on so that's a good sign. And they also offer a free VPN solution outside of Opera.
It's free and people always say to be careful of free products, for if it's free, you are the product. I call bullsh*t on that cliche, but we don't have time to get into that right now. In the end, even if you buy a VPN service, you may not be safe, as this article explains. And it's not an all-encompassing solution anyway, just one more layer of privacy to help you.
And who is to say they aren't owned by the same companies that give you internet access? Or who is to say that they won't simply buy them all up and mostly continue to have a stranglehold in all your communications? In other words, I think we're f*cked no matter what. It's just a matter of time I guess.
In the end, even if you buy a VPN service, who is to say they aren't owned by the same companies that give you internet access? Or who is to say that they won't simply buy them all up and essentially continue to have a stranglehold in all your communications? In other words, maybe we're just f*cked no matter what.
One more thing, over the next month or so I'll give you more information on how you can protect yourself without having to use Opera, and I'll figure out a way to help you protect your entire household. Stay tuned for more. Make sure you're connected with me on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest.