How to protect your personal data from your ISP

Congress steps away from protecting your personal data.

Congress voted this week to roll back the FCC's privacy rules for ISPs (Internet service providers), which would have limited the ability of broadband or wireless service providers to collect and sell personal browsing data.

As you might expect, the congressional action has raised alarms in privacy and security communities. Part of the issue is that your carrier sees all your network traffic -- unlike a company like Google or Facebook, which sees just the traffic you send to them through searches or posts. Also, this rollback marks the federal government shifting away from consumer protection.

How can you protect your data?

Privacy experts recommend that you use a VPN, or virtual private network, which can shield your network traffic as it passes through your Internet provider.

Picking a trustworthy VPN can be tricky, as VPN providers may also collect and sell your browsing history or otherwise not protect your data. A recent study found that 18 percent of VPNs don't encrypt your traffic and up to 84 percent leak data.

We recently looked at how to pick a trustworthy Android VPN. For a comprehensive guide for what to consider, check out That One Privacy Guy's in-depth blog on how to find a good VPN.

Should you pick another ISP?

If you are fortunate to live in an area with more than one service provider, you may be able to sign up with one with a better privacy policy. Here in the Bay Area, local broadband provider Sonic has a pro-consumer privacy policy. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a list of other providers that oppose Congress's actions this week.

See also

Best free Android VPN

Best paid Android VPN

How to choose an Android VPN

Guide to the best paid VPN for Windows

Buyers guide to VPNs

About Clifford Colby

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.