An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that connects your devices to the internet. ISPs offer prepay or postpaid subscriptions to home or office users through DSL, cable or fiber internet. Most people assume that their browsing history and data are safe and cannot be accessed by third parties. However, unknown to many, ISPs can access their web browsing history from their end.
ISPs are authorized by international law to access and monitor all data on the internet. They are required to track and monitor data for any suspicious or criminal activities like terrorism, ensure the security of their clients and the nation, and offer the best services through an uninterrupted network. But to what extent are ISPs permitted by law to intrude on your privacy?
Internet providers are commercial companies that aim to maximize profits. To achieve this, some ISPs sell users' data history to advertisers, invading their online privacy. Some ISPs have partnered with websites to collect personal data and share the profits. Facebook, for example, accesses users' data to sell to advertisement companies, leading to intrusive ads on their walls.
ISPs and some websites even practice solicitation by forcing their clients to pay extra not to monitor their traffic. The information they track and collect include frequently visited websites, personal information such as date of birth, email addresses, passwords, phone applications, financial details such as social security numbers, and credit card information.
ISPs are not the only people who can access your information. The government uses them to track online activity, and at work, your boss can track your history. Hackers can use personal information to plant viruses in your devices.
To protect users from ISP abuse, some states in the US have laws in place, but implementation is still a problem. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits ISPs from selling personal data but permits them to sell aggregate customer data. However, 'aggregate' is an ambiguous term that is under dispute.
Most people aren't aware of online abuse, and mass education is required. The 2010 Open Internet Rules and the 2015 Open Internet Guidelines require ISPs to declare their terms and conditions, disclose their management practices, and outline their performance.
To protect your online privacy, users should switch from ISPs to VPN. VPN is a private network that protects your online activities from access by third parties through code encryption. Encryption blocks out spies and intrusive people from accessing your web or data history. Using a VPN even allows you to remain anonymous.
In conclusion, ISPs have the power to access and monitor your online activities, but you can take steps to protect your online privacy by educating yourself, using a VPN, and being aware of the laws in place.