Traffic Logging and your Internet Privacy

Your private Internet traffic is not private. Lots of money is made selling your information; however, there are ways to protect yourself. You can mask…  your traffic and make it not visible to your ISP. We will explain how to do this later. First lets establish the facts that this is legal for your ISP to do, that they are indeed doing it, and you have the right to turn it off.

Traffic Logging Legality

You may have heard in the past that ISP’s needed to disclose their traffic logging behavior and have your consent.  This was true as of 27 October 2016 under Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules during the Obama administration.  However, no sooner than the privacy rules went in to effect, they were rescinded as of 23 March 2017.  Under these new rules your ISP doesn’t even need your permission that they are logging your information.

Which Internet Providers are Traffic Logging?

It may come as a surprise to you that the big name mobile cell phone providers (AT&T and Verizon) are traffic logging your behavior when you use their services.  According to the Washington Post video provided below, they report that mobile cell phone providers value your information as much as $350 a year for your private information.

If you use Comcast for Internet in your home, then guess what?  They are logging your traffic as well.   While Comcast claims that they don’t sell your information, they do log your traffic and target you with advertisements. Comcast has their own advertising network. Instead businesses pay Comcast so that Comcast can target you with their advertisements.

As it turns out a Traffic Logging is a very common practice used by the industry and its hard to know who is doing it and who is not.  If you are concerned about what information Internet providers are collecting from you the good news is that you can turn some of this off.

How you can Protect yourself from Traffic Logging

There are two things you can do to beef up your privacy when surfing the internet and make it virtually impossible for anyone to see your traffic. First, you need to have a VPN,  second you need to enable private browsing, together this combination is almost impossible to snoop your traffic.

A VPN provides you a secure encrypted channel between you and your VPN provider.  Your web browsing is then brokered by your VPN provider, and will shield your IP address.  The VPN service provides their IP address in place of yours to the websites you visit.  To the webpage you visit, it looks like the VPN is visiting the website.  From your internet providers view, all they see is that you are connecting to the VPN, and they can not see inside the encrypted traffic.

However, there is one catch if you log in to a website, all bets are off.  When you log into your Google Gmail, Facebook, or other social media account, they store cookies in your browser that enable them to track your page visits, likes, shares, and links you click.  The good news is you can fight this back with the next trick.

If you enable private browsing on  your web browser it does a few things to increase your privacy.  First it prevents one tab in your browser from being able to detect whats on other tabs. Second, cookies won’t be stored in the browser.  Third, no history or passwords are saved.  Fourth, it tells websites not to track you.

Together (VPN + Private Browsing) gives you a huge boost in your internet privacy.  However, it does not prevent websites that you log into from being able to track you by the username that you use.

The take aways to remember are that its legal for Internet providers to do traffic logging with out your permission.  Many of the Internet Providers do log your traffic and sell to advertisers either directly or indirectly. Finally, there are ways to keep your traffic private.

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