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What the Repeal of Online Privacy Protections Means for You (by Brian X. Chen)

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Congress on Tuesday moved to dismantle online privacy rules created during the Obama era. The rules, which were scheduled to take effect this year, would have required internet providers to get permission before collecting and selling a customer’s online information, including browsing activities.

What does this mean for your privacy and what can you do? Here’s what to know.

What online privacy rules did Congress overturn?

Congress voted to overturn rules created by the Federal Communications Commission in October that required broadband providers to get your permission before collecting private data on your online activities and offering it for sale to advertisers.

How does that affect my online privacy?

The truth is, you never had much online privacy.

The new F.C.C. rules had not taken effect, so you probably won’t notice any difference. Internet service providers have always been able to monitor network traffic, see what websites you visit and share some of that information with advertisers.

So is this a big deal?

Yes.

The new F.C.C. rules would have given consumers stronger privacy protections — without such restrictions, internet providers may decide to become more aggressive with data collection and retention. Expect more targeted advertising to come your way.

How do broadband providers collect data on me in the first place?

These companies provide your connection to the internet. Your gadgets are each assigned an identifier, called an IP address, and an internet provider can see which IP addresses are being used on your account.

When you are browsing the web, the service provider helps route your device’s internet traffic to each destination website. In other words, internet providers can see which devices you use and which websites you visit and choose to retain that data.

What can I do to safeguard my online data?

Many privacy advocates say this a good time to consider investing in a virtual private network, or VPN. A VPN is a tunnel that shields your browsing information from your internet service provider and allows you to appear as if you are in a different location.

However, a VPN isn’t a foolproof solution. A VPN service is also tied to a service provider, meaning a VPN provider could also share your information with the service provider if it wanted to, said Runa Sandvik, a director of information security for The New York Times.

In other words, you will have to pick a VPN provider that has a strong privacy policy and take a leap of faith.

Which VPN should I get?

Ms. Sandvik recommended Freedome by F-Secure and said TunnelBear was another popular option.

The Wirecutter, the product recommendations site owned by The New York Times, highlighted a service called Private Internet Access.

What else can help?

People who are concerned about their privacy might also consider using Tor, a type of software that helps internet users mask their online identities and whereabouts, Ms. Sandvik said.

Tor essentially encrypts your browsing activity and bounces a website request to multiple servers, decrypting layers of information about the request with every server “hop,” which makes it difficult to see from where and whom the original request came.

What are the downsides of VPN and Tor?

Some services might break: for example, Netflix blocks VPN users from accessing its content. And Tor often makes web browsing sluggish.

Ms. Sandvik recommended using a combination of the two whenever it feels necessary — like when you are accessing sensitive information related to your work, for instance.

4 Ways Millennials Can Get Involved on Small Business Saturday (by Deborah Sweeney)

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During the holiday season, it’s easy to assume millennials are either caught up in Black Friday madness or going on a Cyber Monday shopping spree on their smartphones and that Small Business Saturday just doesn’t appeal to them. But that’s where you would be wrong. Currently, 80 million millennials make up about 25% of the U.S. population and when it comes to their shopping habits, what they crave is an authentic experience. Give them the chance to explore and discover with personalized service and they’ll regularly return to support your business — and few companies can deliver this kind of adventure quite like a mom and pop shop. If you’ve never participated in Small Business Saturday, here are a few ways you can get involved and celebrate the movement.

1. Volunteer your time.

While American Express encourages small businesses to become Neighborhood Champions for the day, millennials can still rally together to volunteer their time to businesses that could use extra helping hands. Be sure to talk to the store owner beforehand to ensure that the establishment you’d like to assist can accommodate you since they likely already have employees on the clock that day. If you get the all-clear to volunteer do something simple and thoughtful, like offering complimentary gift wrapping services for purchases.

2. Spread the word of mouth via social.

Since millennials already use social as a means to discover and discuss products that interest them, why not spread the #ShopSmall word via social media platforms?

If your favorite small business is using a special hashtag for the day along with the #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat hashtags, encourage your friends and family to use it when sharing news that they’re out and about shopping. Tweet the news on Twitter, create Instagram Stories about your adventure in the neighborhood (and add in the hashtag for everyone to follow along), and check in on Facebook, all while tagging the social handles of the small businesses you’re currently at where/if you can. An infographic on Business 2 Community revealed that in 2015 there were 85 million social media engagements in support of Small Business Saturday. Let’s keep those numbers climbing upward for 2016!

3. Livestream your experience.

Pictures, posts, and tweets are great, but nothing captures the moment quite like live video. Before this week, I would normally advise using Periscope for filming, but with Instagram’s latest updates — live video on Instagram Stories and disappearing videos for friends on Instagram Direct — there are more ways now than ever before to get everyone watching your stream. For the live video on Instagram Stories, you can film for up to an hour. Much like Periscope, your friends will be alerted when you’re live and they may comment on your video when they start watching it. Bonus points to anyone who has snagged a pair of Snap Inc.’s Spectacles and plans on capturing the day through those lenses!

4. And last but not least, shop!

Helping out, filming, and sharing updates about Small Business Saturday are all great ways to get involved, but one of the biggest and most crucial is — what else? — shopping! The total spending in 2015 was $16.2 billion and American Express has reported that 59% of small business retailers (about six in ten businesses) only see themselves growing substantially in 2017 if they have a successful holiday season.

As I mentioned earlier, millennials enjoy shopping at businesses that give them a unique experience that’s more than making a purchase and taking it home. If your business has special offerings and one-on-one service, then millennials build a connection to your brand and are more apt to be regular customers. They’re even more likely to be your brand advocate if your company supports causes they’re passionate about with 50% of millennials committing to buying from companies that give back.

Because at the end of the day, what really drives millennials to shop? Micah Soloman shared on Forbes it’s all about transparency. They’ll invest in a brand that has values and is honest because they care about honesty and authenticity. It’s the best of both worlds when you can provide a service and keep customers of all ages coming back because they recognize what you bring to the table and the community as a whole which is ultimately what makes Small Business Saturday such a powerful movement. Let’s #ShopSmall together.