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Posted on 18th August 2017
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This report on the BBC is rather worrying.
A US web-host service provider, DreamHost, is embroiled in a battle with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) over a request for all the IP addresses of people (about 1.3 million of them) who accessed a web-site that helped organise a protest on the day of President Trump's inauguration. DreamHost is currently refusing to provide the data, and the dispute is due to be heard in court later this month.
Regulations have already been changed to allow ISPs and other web-service providers (like Google) to sell the data on what web-sites you visit (if they choose to, but so far no-one has chosen to do this). Now the government wants that data too (presumably without even paying for it).
This is all rather bizarre, given that the US constitution gives people the right to free speech, which is normally considered to include the right to protest (peacefully). It seems that the world described in George Orwell's "1984" is coming to pass (albeit more than 30 years behind schedule); if you have never read this book, now seems to be a good time.
If you don't already use one, now might be a good time to investigate the use of a VPN or a public proxy server to hide your web-activity; a service that is based outside of the USA, otherwise the US government will be able to force the VPN or proxy service provider to hand over data on your browsing habits. Also, you should get in the habit of using HTTPS (secure HTTP) when you visit web-sites; most major web-sites are available over HTTPS (this site is available over HTTPS, and many sites automatically redirect you to HTTPS if you visit using non-secure HTTP).
Since I live in Germany, where data protection and privacy laws are strong and well enforced, I don't currently have many worries about my Internet usage data being sold or handed over to some government, but nevertheless I use a proxy for some of my traffic. Readers in the USA (and the UK) are much more exposed, and you need to protect yourselves.