There are already enough candidates for ‘top reason to get control of your anonymity online.’ Everything from your browser to your laptop to the websites you visit can be messed with to spy on you.
The big differentiator for ads now is targeting them to the right audience, at the right time, with the right messaging that’s carefully personalized to tightly-defined audience segments.
That means anything from the last thing you bought online, to the last blog post you read to the last website you visited, to – well, everything else you do online, including individual actions on websites.
It’s all worth money to someone.
People who want to sell you stuff want to watch you, so they know how to get you to buy.
OK. Most of us actually prefer personalized ads anyway.
But there’s a difference between being offered shoes in your size and being followed around the web without your knowledge or permission, and having all that data added up, analysed, sold on, stored… what could go wrong?
Ask Yahoo. After several humiliating admissions they were finally forced to come clean: every single Yahoo account has been totally compromised.
Every piece of personal, professional and financial data ever sent over the Yahoo email server is open to anyone who cares to pony up for it on the dark web.
So things were bad enough before – with your browser spying on you, your laptop spying on you, your webcam spying on you, and more.
Now, they’re about to get worse. Because the FCC has dismantled the rules known as ‘net neutrality’ that used to protect people from intrusion by their ISP.
It’s worth talking a little about net neutrality, because it’s important but often misunderstood.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality means that ISPs have to treat all traffic that goes down their network the same. They can sell you internet, and they can sell you faster internet. But they can’t sell you bits and pieces of the internet. And they can’t spy on your traffic and sell it to third parties.
Well, they can now.
Things may not stay this way. Ajit Pai, head of the FCC, is under investigation by the FCC’s internal corruption watchdog for his handling of the net neutrality decision.
Is he guilty?
Who knows… could go either way.
Meantime, we have to deal with the collapse of net neutrality.
This means your ISP can sell you certain services, block or throttle others, and refuse you access to certain websites, areas of the web, types of site, and more.
This has two effects. One, it lets your ISP censor the web for you.
And two, it lets your ISP spy on you, collect all your internet usage data and sell it on to third parties.
Or, you know, lose it, like Yahoo did.
If you’re a consumer, this is a real threat. This could be your medical details, your financial details, your credit card number or where your kids go to school.
If you’re a business it’s all that and more. Information on partners, customers, purchases, P&L – with so many businesses making the transition to the cloud in the last ten years we’re talking about opening the door to your whole operation here.
The solution to this mess depends who you ask. If you’re asking me, I think we put Ajit Prai in jail, re-establish net neutrality and then start the conversation.
But in the meantime, everyone who does any kind of business online needs to get a VPN yesterday. This is especially true if you do business online in the USA and Europe: the end of net neutrality means you have to make special provisions for the EU’s stringent new GDPR regulations that go live on May 25 this year.
These regulations protect EU citizens wherever they are and place heavy burdens on businesses to prove that they keep their customers’ data safe.
Want to cover your back at home and abroad? The answer is the same as always: get a good VPN and use it.
Look for one that can handle business traffic, doesn’t slow you down, has a pricing structure built for business and doesn’t keep traffic logs.
If you want to know more about choosing a business VPN, start out with our VPN review pages!