You’ve heard it before. Internet privacy is important. With hacks and what feels like a new Facebook scandal in the news nearly every other day, it’s hard to not be at least curious – if not outright alarmed – about what is being done with our personal data.
But even if we choose to become more circumspect in which websites we use in an attempt to protect our privacy, gaps in current law make it so your personally identifiable information is always in jeopardy.
In 2017, Congress and the Trump administration rolled back protections on consumer privacy, allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to comb through our data constantly, and then sell it to the highest bidders. Here are just a few ways that can hurt you.
- Your ISP can put your health at risk.
If you’re anything like me, one of the first things you do when beginning to feeling ill is open the computer, pull up tabs for Google and WebMD and begin searching symptoms. And apart from indulging some of my more hypochondriacal tendencies, it feels like a rather harmless practice.
But thanks to the current lack of regulations on ISPs, simply searching symptoms online can put you at risk. ISPs can sell your search data to insurance companies, which they can then analyze for health trends and factor into their decisions on what insurance rates you qualify for. Not cool, and definitely not safe.
- Your ISP can aid in unregulated policing.
Companies like AT&T have a history of selling customers’ data to the government, allowing law enforcement to violate your right to privacy in hard-to-monitor and hard-to-regulate ways. And while this is something everyone should be worried about, it is especially dangerous for immigrants and people of color who are often disproportionately targeted for surveillance by law enforcement agencies.
- Your ISP can hurt your personal finances.
When ISPs sell your data to outside companies, your finances can take a hit in several ways. According to an ACLU blog post, “retailers have been found to offer different online prices to customers based on their location. In some cases, customers in higher-wealth areas were given better deals than those in lower-wealth areas, because there were fewer retail stores in poorer areas to compete with the online prices.” And more damaging than online shopping prices, the information your ISP sells without your permission can be bought by banks and used to negatively affect the type of loans you qualify for.
We don’t have to helplessly stand by as our privacy is violated in order to continue using the internet. Contact your legislators and tell them to vote yes on LD 946.