Are you being tracked?


By the Jacksonville (Ill.) Journal-Courier



Maybe your microwave isn’t spying on you. Perhaps your toaster isn’t plotting nefarious acts.

But don’t take off the tin-foil hat just yet.

Just because you aren’t paranoid doesn’t mean no one is out to get you.

Or, more specifically, your information.

See, just about everything people do in today’s always-connected world leaves a digital mark floating around somewhere. Even when they think they have done everything to keep prying eyes from knowing their activities, there are binary trails storing their secrets and leading back to them like footprints in the snow.

Think of how valuable this information could be to those who would like to market their goods to captive consumers.

Your browser history show visits to a few online sites about thinning hair? That’s perfect for drug-makers who promise a cure. Curious about the newest gadget? Tech firms would love to bombard your with special offers to make a sale. Perusing a few adult websites early in the morning (we’re looking at you, Bob)?

There are more than plenty of companies that would love to charge you $9.95 a month to sate your proclivities.

If you have ever been a little freaked out after searching for a product and then noticing ads for that same product popping up as you go about your online experience, it’s a little taste of what could be coming.

Up until now, internet service providers — the people who connect you to the wonderful world through your computer — have been prohibited from compiling and selling such information without your permission. Search engines can target consumers because they fall under Federal Trade Commission regulations.

But Republicans seemingly bent on getting rid of any reminder of former President Barack Obama’s time in office want to do away with those privacy laws that were put into place last year by the Federal Communications Commission.

Not only do they want to scrap the rule, they want to ensure similar regulations could not be put into place in the future.

What’s remarkable about this is that Senate Joint Resolution 34, which was introduced by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and has already gathered more than 20 Republican co-sponsors, is being billed as in the best interest of consumer privacy.

It goes a step further, though. House Joint Resolution 86, which was introduced by Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, would put internet providers under the same minimal jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission regulations.

Although most internet service providers keep records of browsing habits, until the law is changed they are required to keep it confidential. Some, no doubt, will do that. But others are champing at the bit to open a new revenue stream from your details.

Think about what you use the internet for on a regular basis. Your health, your finances, information about your children.

It’s a treasure trove of data for anyone willing to pay for it.

And, unlike the spin Republican sponsors are trying to put on it, this proposal has nothing to do with protecting your privacy.

Even your toaster can see through that.

The Jacksonville (Ill.) Journal-Courier is a sister Civitas Media newspaper of the Wilmington News Journal.

By the Jacksonville (Ill.) Journal-Courier