Dad forwarded an email he got from Symantec today. The subject line was “Breaking: New legislation affects your online privacy” and went on to suggest he could subscribe to their “Norton WiFi Privacy” product to stop his Internet Service Provider from selling his browsing data.
My take is that he should save his money. This is just Symantec doing some very opportunistic, and cynical, marketing. The place where a VPN is most valuable is when you’re using a network you don’t know whether to trust (e.g. the free WiFi at your neighborhood sub shop).
For now at least, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and probably others are making a big deal about how they’re not collecting/selling your web browsing behavior (though they’re certainly leaving room to change that once the furor dies down — they did after all spend a huge amount of money lobbying against those rules).
Even without VPN, when you visit a web site that uses HTTPS (and more than half of the web does now), your internet provider can’t tell what you did there. They can certainly tell that you visited https://www.mybank.com, but because it’s https:// instead of http://, they can’t tell what specific pages you visited.
USA Today had a good article about some ways to protect your online privacy. Subscribing to a VPN service wasn’t one of them.
It seems like the mail includes a good number of credit card offers. Various companies seem to send offers for their special Visa or Mastercard affinity programs almost daily. It only takes a moment to run them through the shredder, and the fees for sending them help keep the lights on at the Post Office. Besides, figuring out how to stop them takes too long, right?
But Thursday’s daily email included something special! A credit card offer with the magic phrase, “You can choose to stop receiving “prescreened” offers of credit from this and other companies by calling toll-free 1-888-567-8688.” Now I’m suspicious of pretty much any offer that comes in as a spam email (These turkeys weren’t even supporting the Post Office!) but a Google search is pretty painless.
The second result was the US Federal Trade Commission’s “Prescreened Credit and Insurance Offers” page. So what do you know? That phone number’s legit.
So it turns out there are actually three options:
- Call 888-567-8688 and you can stop (most) credit card offers for five years.
- You can also stop (most) credit card offers by visiting https://www.optoutprescreen.com/, clicking the “Click Here to Opt-In or Opt-Out” button.
- Or you can go for the gold by visiting that same link, printing out the form at the end, and mailing it to
P.O. Box 2033
Rock Island, IL 61204-2033
Total time spent: less than five minutes.
(Image via pixabay)