Online advertising – we’ve all seen it, and we’ve all been struck by how accurately it reflects our browsing history. Well, that’s because it does, which is a concept that does not sit well with many consumers. These consumers feel the fact that their browsing history is shared with marketing professionals to better target them with advertisements is an invasion of their privacy – an invasion Comcast wants to help their subscribers avoid.
For a cost, of course.
The Philadelphian telecommunications company recently appealed the Federal Communications Commission in a letter defending what is referred to as a “pay-for-privacy” service. With this service, Comcast would be able to charge their customers more for Internet services with protections in place to keep advertisers from tracking a user’s browsing habits. Arguing that this service would allow their customers to enjoy discounted Internet services and that the FCC had no authority to stop the company from offering such a service, Comcast made an argument for the pay-for-privacy model that supposedly sets a decades-long precedent:
“A bargained-for exchange of information for service is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the U.S. economy, including the Internet ecosystem, and is consistent with decades of legal precedent and policy goals related to consumer protection and privacy.”
The timing of this campaign is no coincidence, either, as the FCC is currently pushing for regulations to be put into place that would require companies, like Comcast, to get their users’ permission to share their personal information with outside parties. This, of course, would result in Comcast having far fewer of their customers to offer the advertising companies, ultimately costing them a significant amount of money.
Of course, if paying a company that wants to profit off of your privacy makes you feel grimy, there are other options that may be considered as well. A virtual private network, shortened to VPN, paired with a private browser can allow you to connect to any local area network you need to without the security risks that traveling through the Internet usually entails. This is thanks to the fact that all activity on a VPN is completely encrypted and defended against peeking from external sources, your privacy is maintained.
Another option, albeit a riskier one, is to utilize a TOR browser. This can protect your browsing privacy by sending your connection bouncing across relays worldwide, preventing observers from being able to track your history, your physical location, and is able to bypass blocked web pages. If used in tandem with a VPN, the only information anyone could get would be the IP address of the TOR exit node. However, because of the numerous questionable transactions that occur on TOR browsers, authority figures in government and law enforcement tend to keep a closer eye on those they find to be utilizing them. Therefore, if privacy is truly your biggest concern, it is probably more advisable to just use a VPN with a typical private browser and avoid attracting even more attention. Either, however, will preserve your privacy without having to pay more than you do currently, without a company threatening to take more money for what they should already provide.