Thanks to a vote on Thursday by Senate Republicans, everyone鈥檚 internet browser activity just got a聽whole lot less private. Republicans in the Senate voted to roll back broadband privacy, which would allow internet service providers (ISPs)聽to sell user data to advertisers, without the permission of users.

The vote Thursday was to undo a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that was created under the Obama administration last year. The rule was intended to protect user privacy, focusing on 鈥渢ransparency, choice, and data security, and provides heightened protection for sensitive customer information, consistent with customer expectations.鈥 Vitally, the rule required ISPs to 鈥減rovide privacy notices that clearly and accurately inform customers; obtain opt-in or opt-out customer approval to use and share sensitive or non-sensitive customer proprietary information,鈥 among other regulations.

But all of this could be over, and soon.聽If the rollback passes the House (which, like the Senate, is currently controlled by Republicans), advertisers will be able to buy information about your聽internet activity, lining the pockets of ISPs who stand to make a lot of cash from ad sales. Well, internet browser companies, and the Republicans who voted to make this happen.

In its coverage of the privacy rollback, Vocativ noted that Republicans who voted in favor of undoing the FCC rule have accepted money from major ISPs, from Verizon and T-Mobile to Comcast and Time Warner.

Vocativ also pointed out that some Democrats receive money from ISPs, but no Democrats voted in favor of undoing the FCC rule.

Democrats are, to put it lightly, not happy about seeing the rule disappear. According to聽Ars Technica, Massachusetts senator Ed Markey noted that president Trump has been up in arms about made-up violations of his privacy, but Republicans are now working to guarantee that regular citizens鈥 privacy will be compromised.

鈥淧resident Trump may be outraged by fake violations of his own privacy,鈥 Markey said following Thursday鈥檚 vote, 鈥渂ut every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result [from]聽the Republican roll-back of broadband privacy protections.鈥

Republican senator from Arizona Jeff Flake, on the other hand, is trying to sell the rollback as beneficial to consumers. Flake has said that the rollback will 鈥減rotect consumers from overreaching Internet regulation,鈥澛Ars Technica reports.

But polling suggests consumers don鈥檛 want ISPs to use or sell their information to advertisers. A 2016 poll from the Pew Research Center found that nearly three quarters (74 percent) of people feel it鈥檚 鈥渧ery important鈥 that they have control over who has access to their internet activity. The same poll found that 28 percent of adults have gone out of their way to avoid data collection by advertisers online. A whopping 91 percent felt that consumers have 鈥渓ost control of how personal information is collected and used by companies.鈥

Given the opinion of regular people using the internet, it鈥檚 hard to buy what Flake and his Republican colleagues are selling. It鈥檚 clear that the only people benefiting from the privacy rollback are ISPs and the Republicans they ply with financial support. But it looks as though the change is going to be made regardless, so how can folks protect themselves online?

The sad reality is there isn鈥檛 much anyone will be able to do if major ISPs have the legal power to sell user data. What鈥檚 worse is the ISPs won鈥檛 have to tell anyone they鈥檙e using or selling data, so there鈥檚 no way to know when they鈥檙e selling information or who they鈥檙e selling it to.

Jeremy Gillula, the聽Senior Staff Technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tellsArs Technicathat the only thing to be done is encrypting internet activity. There are three ways of accomplishing this, Ars TechnicaI reports: using a virtual private network (VPN) service, Tor, and HTTPS.

VPNs allow users to log-in to private servers remotely. Tor works by separating the pieces of information so that it doesn鈥檛 creative a cohesive picture, and HTTPS adds a layer of encryption to internet usage.

But apart from calling up Republicans in the House of Representatives and asking them not to rollback the FCC rule, that鈥檚 all anyone can do to protect their data from advertisers. So be warned.

What do you think about ISPs selling user data without consent? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.

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