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Your ISP Can Now Collect & Share Data On What You Stream — But Here’s How To Stop Them

By Lyn Atwood / August 31, 2017 / Tags:

Protecting your private information online — while you stream TV and otherwise — is now more important than ever.

Prevent ISP data collection and spying

Under a new US law, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can now collect, store, and sell your private data to the highest bidder — without needing your permission.

Data your ISP can access and share includes the websites you visit, the content you view, how long you stay on sites, your physical location — and possibly more, like if you download any files. ISPs have always been able to track and monitor customers, but the storage and sharing of information is a disturbing new leap of power that could have major consequences for some individuals.

The law even goes a step further. ISPs can surveil customers, for example if a government agency or corporation asked them to.

For streamers, the news is particularly worrisome. Anyone who uses controversial “pirated” sources to stream TV online (like Kodi, IPTV, and Popcorn Time), or to download free shows and movies, could be at risk of having their information turned over to authorities or copyright watchdogs.

Protecting your privacy online, while you stream and otherwise, is now more important than ever. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to keep your ISP from getting ahold of your personal information.

Stop ISPs From Seeing Your Private Data

The best way to prevent your ISP — and anyone else, like hackers or the government — from accessing your personal data is to use a VPN.

A VPN (virtual private network) is an online privacy and security tool. It’s a cheap and very effective way to stay 100% anonymous online, preventing anyone from spying on your activities or collecting data about you.

VPNs work by encrypting your connection, essentially making you invisible online. VPNs fall into two main categories: free and paid. While you may be tempted to use a free VPN, know that most security experts won’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. Reliability also tends to be poor.

Paid VPNs are the better choice where security and privacy is concerned — and even some of the highest-rated VPNs only cost a few dollars a month. The good VPNs use military-grade encryption technology and extra security features to avoid things like DNS leaks, which can leave openings for spies. Even among the paid options, not all VPNs take privacy seriously, so it’s important to choose wisely.

Look for a VPN that uses 100% private servers, has a zero log policy, and prevents DNS leaks. It’s also smart to choose a provider that’s based outside the US, since VPNs have to abide by the rules of their home country. Plus, you’ll want one that won’t slow your connection.

We’ve researched and tested dozens of the top VPNs. See our full comparison of the best VPNs for privacy and security while streaming, downloading, or doing anything else online.

Best VPNs For Online Privacy & Security

Other Ways To Stay Safe & Private Online

Another way to keep your ISP from collecting data on you is to use Tor. Tor does, however, have its downside.

First, it takes some tech savvy to set up and use Tor the right way. Plus, ISPs frequently throttle or even block Tor users. Many websites also slow speeds or otherwise discriminate against visitors using Tor, since they can’t show them targeted ads.

How To Stay Anonymous On Kodi

Customers can also try to opt out of data collection, though success is likely to be small. In some cases, it’s expensive. AT&T charges $30 – $60 per month, on top of regular charges, to not collect data on customers.

The price of privacy is high at AT&T, making cheaper methods like a VPN a no-brainer. Indeed, the cost of not protecting your private data could be much higher.

Lyn Atwood
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Lyn Atwood

Covering all things streaming, from the mainstream to the wonkish and back again.
Lyn Atwood
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