Photo credit/ Elizabeth Carlson
OPINION: FCC deregulation bill kills online privacy
Goodbye internet privacy.
On March 28, the House passed a bill that will allow internet service providers to sell customer information to anyone willing to pay a high enough price. President Donald Trump signed this bill into law on April 3.
The bill allows companies to sell your downloads, browsing history, geo-locations and information about how long you spend on certain websites to the highest bidder.
The fact that members of the government thought this was an acceptable bill to draft in the first place is despicable. The fact that it not only was supported, but also passed through Congress is even worse.
Online privacy as we know it is dead.
Or is it?
There is one feature online that might save the security of browser data. This feature makes it harder for internet service providers and hackers to see the data of a user by encrypting it.
When a website’s address begins with HTTPS, it means that any data on that website is secured and transmitted over an encrypted connection. This data is nearly impossible for someone outside of that website to see, including the internet service provider of the user.
In the past six months, there has been a 40 percent increase in the use of HTTPS on the world’s top one million websites. On top of offering security to website users, it improves the overall webpage experience.
Google is also giving website creators penalties if they don’t have a HTTPS extension by marking them as dangerous on Google searches and ranking them lower. In Chrome, Google’s internet browser, the website will be displayed as “not secure” as a warning to users.
Google’s system is a start, but it still has flaws. The majority of its flaws cannot be blamed on Google itself, but on HTTPS itself. With most websites changing over to this format, many phishing sites will adapt this extension to trick users into believing their data is secure.
Any website can get an HTTPS extension. There’s no verification to prove a website is using their data properly, it just says the data is safe from outside sources seeing it. This sets people up to be vulnerable and give their information to scammers. Without a verification system in place, HTTPS remains just as flawed as the traditional HTTP extension.
Though web browsers like Chrome are attempting to help users by announcing when a website is using the HTTPS extension, it isn’t enough. There needs to be a stronger vetting system for HTTPS sites.
There needs to be a service that examines websites and determines if they are safe and secure for users. Google does a good job on its own, using a combination of its own software along with other virus protection and fraud search programs, but that’s not enough. To truly protect users and their information, a service is needed that specifically caters to searching websites for their content and their programming to determine if they are harmful.
HTTPS has the ability to save the internet and prevent user information from being sold, but until the proper changes are made, be extremely careful of what you do online and where your information is going.