Cable company lobbying is the latest threat to your Internet privacy

Right now, most of the content you view on the web is encrypted (for any sites where you see the little padlock on your browser). This means that intermediaries can’t see what you’re seeing or sending. However, which sites you visit is information that your ISP still can see. When you go to a website (or connect to any other server on the Internet), you’re traffic is going to an IP address (a number, meaningless to most humans; something like 192.168.10.1). When you type in a human-readable address (e.g., “www.chrisrichardson.info”), a system called DNS looks up that name and returns the number. That whole process is currently unencrypted, and so intermediaries, like your cable company, can and do track that information to learn more about your habits. A new Internet protocol is being released which will encrypt that traffic (much like when we moved from unencrypted web sites to encrypted ones). Both Google and Mozilla have announced that they’ll start using the new encryption, but Google is under antitrust scrutiny, because “[a] new Internet Protocol has raised concerns among congressional antitrust investigators who worry it could give the company an unfair competitive advantage”. This has been prompted by lobbying pressure from the big cable companies, because it actually will reduce their ability to track your behavior. Don’t fall for it — we want this. There’s an argument that this will force more traffic through Google and give them more of a competitive advantage; however, if you’re using Chrome, they already are getting that information and you shouldn’t be using Chrome. To see this in action, consider parental controls. One of the arguments is that this will reduce their ability to function, but they already don’t function. To see this, try blocking YouTube with your computer’s parental controls. Then, open up Chrome and try going to YouTube. You’ll find that Google already bypasses your ability to control this. That’s because the browser (Chrome) uses Google’s own DNS system to do the name:number match, bypassing your computer. So, if you want more privacy, don’t let congress block this encryption, and don’t use Chrome.

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Chris Richardson has strong opinions on just about everything. Just ask.