Anas Baig, security consultant, PureVPN
Anas Baig, security consultant, PureVPN

In the US the S.J.Res 34 Bill has put American users' privacy at risk. After being passed by the US Senate and House without delay, it got President Trump's seal of approval in no time.

The controversial bill has been passed to give ISPs greater control over your information. Basically, said ISPs will have access to anything and everything you view or access online. But that is not all, as they are also free to sell data being collected, that too without having to require your permission in the first place.

The bill goes against the very rules put forward by the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) during former president Obama's administration, which were set in place to protect internet users from greedy ISPs. Unfortunately, American internet users are now left to fend for themselves, without a glimmer of hope.

The Anti-Privacy Bill's impact on the rest of the world

Although the bill directly impacts American internet users alone, it does raise a lot of questions about one's online privacy.

US and the EU

Even though awareness regarding online security and privacy is on the rise, it is hardly enough to make internet users realise what is at stake. The totality of the situation can be better understood with Edward Snowden's tweet, which highlighted how the bill will serve as a means for ending the legal framework of personal data transfer that occurs between the EU and US. Simply put, the "Privacy Shield" will exist no more, as per Jan Philipp Albrecht's warning on Twitter.

The "Privacy Shield" agreement came into effect in 2016, after European courts decided that the previous agreement referred to as "Safe Harbour" did not protect users' data after crossing the Atlantic. Since then, 1,500 companies including and not limited to Google and Apple have taken the appropriate measures required to meet the Privacy Shield's regulations.

It is worth noting the bill passed has nothing to do with the agreement, but it has more to do with the privacy act instead. In other words, the act has always placed greater emphasis on protecting American internet users, not outsiders.

US and the rest of the world

Even though Trump's decision will affect government agencies and not private companies, it will still cause a lot of problems for non-US individuals whose data is being handled by Homeland Security. Since the same level of protection is not being offered to non-US individuals, as mentioned earlier, internet users will greatly suffer in the long run.

On the other hand, the introduction of the bill and the way data is handled by US government agencies and private companies has made a lot of people wonder about their own liberties, and whether or not they are being respected. Despite public outcry, the bill was passed with quick resolve showing the people their voices do not matter.

Trump has taken the opposite direction in comparison to Obama's administration. The White House guaranteed privacy rights for non-Americans in 2015, which is no longer the case as stated by John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chief.

Are Internet users safe at all?

Seeing how governments and ISPs have almost limitless access to users' information, it goes without saying nobody is really safe when it comes to using the internet. Regardless of how many legislations and laws are passed, there is really no way for one to confirm whether their rights are being protected. For this reason entirely, internet users must protect themselves, which is not all that difficult to begin with.

In order to protect yourself online and remain anonymous, here is what you need to do:

  • Use a VPN

One of the best ways to combat hackers and third parties is by using a  VPN. These handy tools allow users to become invisible online with the click of a button. Moreover, they also come with numerous features like 256-bit encryption and internet kill switch to further fortify an internet user's security.

  • Avoid accessing confidential information on public computers

Public computers are the last place you want to be accessing confidential information on. It would be wise to stay away from such computers entirely, as they could have malware that could be monitoring any and all activities taking place while logged in.

  • Create unique passwords for different accounts

Why make it simple for others to hack into your accounts? Create unique and complex passwords for different accounts, in order to prevent a hacker from using a single password to access all your accounts.

  • Enable two-factor authentication

With two-factor authentication enabled, you will not only know when someone is trying to gain unauthorised access to your account, but it will serve as a last line of defence which uses your mobile device to ensure every login attempt is an authorised one.

  • Clear browser cache

Your browser's cache knows quite a lot about you, which is why it should not be underestimated. It contains saved searches, web history and saved cookies too, which can be used in unimaginable ways. To protect yourself, and your information from falling in the wrong hands, it would be a good idea to clear your browser cache on a daily basis.

Seeing the drastic effects of the anti-privacy bills and how far its reach really goes, it should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, internet users need to realise that they just may be on their own, and have to depend on themselves to stay ahead of the curve while dealing with cyber-attacks and unauthorided breaches of privacy, that is unless they prefer their information being misused for a variety of different reasons.

Contributed by Anas Baig, security consultant, PureVPN

*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media or Haymarket Media.