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Internet Service Providers Are Buying Your Data, and Scammers Are Pretending to Protect It


HOST INTRO: Now, let’s think your internet browsing history. On Tuesday, President Trump signed a law that allows Internet Service Providers — to sell your online activity to the highest bidder. Many folks are responding by signing up for a virtual private network or VPNs to mask their online activity. But, as Devin Briski reports, that may have risks, too. (0:36)

BRISKI 1: If you’ve ever visited Zappos shoes online, you may have noticed something. Ads for specific shoes start showing up everywhere. They’re now on your Facebook page, or when you’re reading NYTimes-dot-com. Zappos follows you. Joe Weaver is an expert in digital advertising.

WEAVER 1: Every time you put something in your cart, or you click on a shoe to see a description, or you click on the different sizes or the different colors. Every single action that you take is tracked by something that we’d call a cookie. (0:16)// check clunk at end

BRISKI 2: Companies buy and sell data they collect from cookies for a LOT. Websites selling info about your online activity is not new. Weaver says Now that Internet Service Providers can sell your data, too, – that’s a bigger deal.

WEAVER 2: The pipe that comes into your home through your internet service provider is really one of the only pipes that carries data that really allows a company to really understand who you are and what you do. Because they have the most complete view of you as a consumer. (0:17)

1:53 BRISKI 3: That has made privacy advocates very worried – and it’s meant HUGE sales of VPNs – or virtual private networks. If you use a VPN, all of your internet activity is directed to a remote server and encrypted there.

Traffic to the site for ViprVPN increased 70% last week. Sunday Yokubaitis is the president of ViprVPN.

YOKUBAITIS When you use a VPN, your entire internet traffic is going through our server. So you have to really trust who you’re using. You have to look into that company. (0:08)

BRISKI 4: Because – here’s what might surprise you – the VPN market is COMPLETELY unregulated – and now it has all your data. Some call it the wild west of the internet.

RIGGLE 1 Anybody with a server in a dorm room somewhere can stand up a VPN and start taking bitcoin for it. (0:06)

BRISKI 5: That’s Kevin Riggle – he’s a cybersecurity expert who’s been studying the terms of service contracts VPNs offer.

RIGGLE 2 And I do think that we’re seeing a lot of scammy or incompetent players coming into the market because there is this demand. (0:07)

BRISKI 6: One study by the leading Computer Science professional organization found nearly one out of five of VPN apps doesn’t offer any kind of active protection for your online activity.One major red flag? If a VPN service is offered free.

RIGGLE 3 You may have heard the saying if you’re not paying for something, you’re the product, not the customer. That is extremely true of free VPN services. (0:08)

BRISKI 7: VPNs can sell your private data. And many do. Ernesto Falcoln is a digital right lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

FALCOLN 1: VPNs can make pledges to//edit the repeat// respect your privacy. But those pledges have to be enforceable under law, and the law will depend where they’re located. (0:10)

BRISKI 8: If your VPN is located in a foreign country, you may have no legal recourse for fraud or worse.

FALCOLN 2: You have another country’s set of laws and data practices and privacy invasive methods that may exist but you have no say and no control over. (0:12)

BRISKI 9: So if you do decide to install a VPN, do your research. Read the terms of service.And, If you don’t want your data being sold to advertisers, Riggle says the best course of action may be to contact your internet service provider and tell them you don’t want them to sell your data.

Devin Briski, Columbia Radio News


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