28 Oct Privacy, the FCC and your ISP
My wife and I teach a children’s Sunday School class where we teach and drill “Catechisms” which are foundational spiritual truths about God. In the Children’s Catechism, question 12 is this:
- Does God know all things?
A. Yes. Nothing can be hidden from God
I thought of this when reading about the FCC’s vote yesterday to limit the ability of your Internet Service Provider to collect information from your Internet activity and sell it to the highest bidder.
While it is certainly true that God knows all things and you can’t hide from Him, coming in a distant second place to that ability are your “friendly” Big Phone Company and Cable Giants: AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and others. What these Internet Giants have been doing is collecting your data – every site you visit, every click you make, every search you enter. Like the 1983 hit song from the “Police”, Every Move You Make, I’ll be Watching You. They parse though that data and deliver context based advertising to you. Ever noticed that the exact or similar items to what you were searching for start popping up in various ads on sites you visit? That is Big Data in action, and it is a powerful money-making machine for the Giants of the Industry.
Oh, by the way, “Private Browsing” doesn’t stop the Big Phone Company and Giant Cable Company. They are using “deep packet inspection” to see where you are going. Their DNS servers are collecting all of your traffic history – you can’t escape them, and they are entitled to do this by default. One trick you can do is change your DNS server to 22.214.171.124 – that is Google’s DNS. Trouble is, now you are giving that data to Google instead of AT&T or the Cable Companies. Pick your poison.
It gets worse. Not only has AT&T been using the targeted ads for revenue, it came out recently that they also have their formerly top secret “Hemisphere” program that delivers this data to law enforcement. They are selling this data and collecting fees for “training programs” as well. So we have a huge private company selling your data to an ever expanding Government. I am guessing that “Hemisphere” doesn’t discriminate based on your possible (and very rarely exercised) request to AT&T to “opt out” of their data collection. That may have stopped the targeted ads, but the “Echelon” is still collecting data about you.
What about RevTel? Do we sell your digital life information and spy on you? No. While we do collect some information in our server logs it is done for system administration purposes and for customer convenience in the case of phone records. (Customers can search their own call records and retrieve call recordings, for example).
So, back to the FCC vote yesterday. I have been opposed to most of the moves of Tom Wheeler’s FCC, but this step to restore some privacy to us is probably a good thing. I expect the big companies are going to file appeals and take this as far as they can, but I hope this order stands. It is time to restore some privacy in this digital age. While nothing can be hidden from God, we need the right to hide from advertisers and a possible warrant-less search from Government.