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Consumer internet browsing likely to be collected and sold

Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 29, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The future of consumers' online privacy is in President Trump's hands after Congress repealed protections Tuesday. Expected to be signed into law, this deregulation would eventually enable internet providers, like Comcast, to collect and sell your internet browsing habits to the highest bidder.

“It’s pretty scary," said Camren De Waard, Genius Phone Repair marketing director. "It’ll unlock channels for people to be able to get your identity easier, basically know everything about you. It’s kind of like inviting the government into your house.”

Experts like De Waard at Genius Phone Repair say anyone using the internet is at risk. The House of Representatives voted 215 to 205 Tuesday to repeal internet privacy protections the Federal Communications Commission approved during the final days under President Obama. The Senate voted along party lines to repeal last week.

The rules, not yet in effect, would have required internet providers to obtain consumer permission before sharing your data including your browsing history and what you are buying.

“This would be a very big step in a direction I’d say most Americans are not going to appreciate," said De Waard. "It’s just so much of our information that’s going to be out there to be sold. You’re going to get bombarded by things so much easier.”

To protect yourself, De Waard suggests using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. It's software costing anywhere from zero to five dollars monthly, available online to encrypt your internet use and information. A VPN keeps browsers from knowing your location or recording your browsing history.

“It is great for everyone to have," said De Waard. "Privacy, it’s not something to take lightly. The more information people have about you, the easier it is from them to abuse it.”

Other basics important to keep in mind to protect your information include: regularly changing and using different passwords among accounts; never storing your passwords or credit information in a browser; and using the "incognito mood" on your internet browser, which allows you to search in private.

At this point, it's unclear whether consumers would have an option to opt out of having their information sold, and it may come with a surcharge.