Internet Service Providers in the U.S. rampantly collect, share, and profit from customers’ personal data with practically no ways of refusing the practice, claims FTC

Internet Service Providers US Data Collection Sharing Profit FTC Report
ISPs are brazenly collecting and sharing their users’ data? Pic credit: Sean MacEntee/Flickr

Google, Apple Inc., and even Facebook could be small players in the data collection game, hints a new report from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It appears the leading Internet Service Providers in the U.S. collect, share, and profit from huge amounts of users’ personal data.

The entirety of Internet Traffic, and even Real-Time Location Data are just some of the data metrics that the six leading Internet Service Providers in the U.S. collect and share for their own profits. Concerningly, the majority of subscribers of these ISPs are completely unaware of the practice. Moreover, practically they cannot do anything about the same.

Six leading ISPs in the U.S. and their affiliated advertising entities brazenly and rampantly harvest and profit from user data:

The six leading ISPs in the U.S. excessively collect, retain, use, and disclose info about consumers and their devices, claims the U.S. FTC in its report. The ISPs that the FTC names in the report are AT&T Mobility, Cellco Partnership (aka Verizon Wireless), Charter Communications Operating, Comcast (aka Xfinity), T-Mobile U.S., and Google Fiber.

The FTC has also reportedly included three advertising entities affiliated with these companies. These include AT&T’s Appnexus rebranded as Xandr, Verizon’s Verizon Online, and Oath Americas rebranded as Verizon Media.

Collectively, these ISP control roughly 98 percent of the nation’s mobile Internet market, claims the FTC. Traditionally, these companies offered fixed residential internet and mobile internet services. However, they have now expanded into voice, content, smart devices, advertising, and analytics services.

Needless to mention, expansion in these areas, exponentially increases the volume of customer data they can collect and share with third parties, cautions the FTC.

ISP subscribers unaware or helpless in controlling the amount of data their service providers collect and share?

The FTC claims it discovered the ISPs collect huge pools of sensitive consumer data. These businesses use the data in ways their customers do not expect and could cause them harm.

The FTC came to the alarming conclusion presumably because ISPs can classify customers. Some of the categories include demographic characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality.

Incidentally, ISPs claim to offer consumers choices about data collection, sharing, and usage practices. However, the FTC alleges these choices are nothing but eyewash.

“Even though several of the ISPs promise not to sell consumers personal data, they allow it to be used, transferred, and monetized by others and hide disclosures about such practices in the fine print of their privacy policies.”

It seems the ISPs operating in the United States of America could be as privacy-intrusive as large advertising platforms. After all, the ISPs are the direct conduit that connects an Internet user to the Internet. This gives them direct and unfiltered access to their consumers’ entire unencrypted Internet traffic.

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