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How to Protect Your Information from Being Sold

(WICS)

If President Donald Trump signs the bill congress just passed, Internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T or Comcast would be able to collect your search history or location data and sell it to the highest bidder.

Students at UIS are working on an app to protect yourself, and there are steps you can take to be safe.

Students and faculty at UIS say the thought of service providers selling your data is scary.

"Private companies can sell your data already, but the fact that ISPs have direct access to your data because you go through them when you use the internet, and now they can sell your data," Brian Rogers said. "That is worrisome for me."

Computer science professor Ronald Loui says it's not just a privacy issue, it's a national security issue.

He's worried criminals will buy data and use it to blackmail people working in high security government jobs.

"We know you do this," Loui said. "We know your sexual preference. We know your medical history. We know some of your browsing habits. Your employer would not like that. Maybe you're not embarrassed, but your employer would be. And all we ask is what time they lock the doors at night."

Loui says one way to shield your information from providers is by installing a virtual private network (VPNs) on your computer or phone.

The VPN acts as a middle man between your device and the provider to disguise your search. Loui says there are even simpler steps you can take.

"The first thing to do tomorrow, and the day after, and for the next couple of days until someone gives you more protection, is to click on some random links every day."

He says clicking random links will make your history less accurate, and whoever buys your data won't get an accurate picture.

If you don't have the time, UIS students are working on an app that clicks on random links for you every day.

"We may make it available to the public actually as a pro bono," Loui said. "It's important that people have deniability. You frustrate the algorithms by giving them a few false points. False positives."

Proponents of the bill say Facebook and Google already collect your data to give you targeted ads, and this would simply level the advertising playing field.

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