SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A new law could mean more companies will be allowed to sell your online data as President Donald Trump is poised to sign the new legislation.
This law would allow internet providers like AT&T, Mediacom, Verizon, companies that give you internet access, to track and sell users’ browsing habits. But companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook have already been doing that.
So, while consumers might not notice much difference – it’s important to be aware of where your data is going.
“You have all of these companies making money off our data that we haven’t really given them permission to do,” said Dr. Shannon McMurtrey, assistance professor of cyber security at Drury University.
The new law would allow both internet providers and websites to collect and sell what you search.
“What we’re clicking on, the news articles we are interested in, or if you’re researching about an illness, symptoms you may be having,” said Dr. McMurtrey.
McMurtrey says discussion around this law helps bring awareness.
“I don’t want people to worry, but I do want people to become aware of how little privacy we have,” he said.
The internet may be a necessary evil…
“The internet is such a useful tool, for work or whatever I’m doing, I’m always connected,” said Jose Azurdia, a senior at Drury.
But there are tools that can help protect your privacy. The add-on Ghostery shows you all of the companies a certain website is sharing your information with. This same plug-in allows you to block that data sharing.
“I’ll probably use it,” said Azurdia. “I’m a huge fan of add-ons, especially if they are useful.”
The search engine DuckDuckGo allows you to browse the web without tracking your search. While that’s an option, some choose not to use it.
“Personally, I don’t,” said sophomore Mitchell Wilson. “But I know my mom does. She is really big on nobody being able to search that stuff up, so, she uses like DuckDuckGo.”
Dr. McMurtrey believes more protection is possible in the future as people become more aware and demand more privacy.
“They will contact their lawmakers and say ‘I am not comfortable with this’,” he said. “There’s so much of a business built around this surveillance model, that it would be really hard to change that at this point, but I think that it could happen.”
Other ways to help protect your privacy is to check your settings on Facebook periodically. And be more thoughtful about what permissions you allow on the apps you download – like camera, location services or contacts. Those may not be necessary.