Your Internet browsing history sold to advertisers

Internet and app providers already collect a lot of information that’s necessary to maintain their networks and market share, like your location and what you’re looking at online. Many have said they will not use “sensitive” information, like medical records, children’s data and banking details without consent. However a simple browsing history can reveal those personal details, such as symptoms you’ve Googled. There are concerns that it would be possible to identify people based on this detailed information.

Internet providers like BSNL, MTNL, Airtel, Reliance, Idea, Vodafone, etc can infer a lot about your private info based just on your browsing. In addition to basics like age and gender, they might know who your friends are, if you’re a recovering alcoholic or smoking, or where you went to school. In theory, they could create an in-depth profile of you. ISPs will likely sell anonymous information to marketers and advertisers so they can better target ads.

If a provider is collecting information about your behavior on multiple sites, a competitor could use it in real time to show you ads for rival shoe brands. You might also see ads that are more precisely targeted based on the deeper profiles that internet providers are able to build about you, even if they aren’t connected to your specific identity. This information could be packaged and sold to marketers who could use that information to develop a better understanding of how things are sold on the web.

So what can you do? Using a tool called a virtual private network, or VPN, will protect your online activity from anyone who might want to look at it, including Internet providers. But do your research before you pick a VPN. Sometimes they claim to cloak your traffic but their privacy policies allow them to track and sell your information to advertisers. That’s how many free VPNs make money.

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