But deep packet inspection has a dark side, and in the absence of strict legal restrictions, your ISP is free to root through all the information you exchange online and use it as they see fit. Personal data like your age, location, and shopping records can be logged and sold in anonymized batches to advertising companies, and law enforcement agents can monitor and curtail your Internet access without your knowledge. Without strict limitations to preserve user privacy, this sort of deep data filtering can significantly impair your ability to remain anonymous online.
This level of surveillance is nothing new; Internet service providers in China already employ deep packet inspection software to scan for sensitive keywords and block access to sites like YouTube. Chinese citizens often employ foreign VPN services to access websites blocked by the Chinese government, and you can do the same. "If you want to prevent this sort of inspection, you could use someone else's network," says Steven Andrés, founder and CTO of Special Ops Security. "I imagine if Congress [ever] enacts SOPA into law, a number of VPN services will crop up in other countries."
The key thing to remember is that, even if your ISP or the government is monitoring your online activity, you can proactively protect your privacy by visiting only websites that offer an encrypted connection and establishing a secure connection to a VPN overseas to visit blocked websites. You can use a free tool like HTTPS Everywhere to ensure that SSL encryption is always enabled when available, or go one step further and sign up for a paid VPN service like WiTopia or HideMyNet to circumvent Internet censorship by your ISP or local government. You could even start using a service like XeroBank or the Tor Network to anonymize your online activities via a series of proxy servers. Or you could do nothing, and trust your ISP not to mishandle your private information.