As privacy becomes an even hotter topic across the globe, we are seeing news ways in which we are constantly failing to protect ourselves online.
A recent report from the Center for Digital Democracy found that several large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have either formed partnerships with, or acquired, data tracking and analytics firms in recent years, giving them access to a “vast storehouse of consumer data.” As these large ISPs align themselves more closely with data brokers to track their customers, web users will continue to be tracked to greater and greater degrees.
“ISPs have been on a shopping spree to help build their data-targeting system across devices and platforms,” the report claimed. “Superfast computers analyze our information… to decide in milliseconds whether to target us for marketing and more.”
Through digital dossiers that merge all of this information, we can be bought and sold in an instant — to financial marketers, fast-food companies, and health advertisers — all without our knowledge.”
Natural alliances have formed between data, media, advertising, and technology companies because at the epicenter of all of these you see the greatest potential for profit. The information they are collecting is coming from and being delivered to every digital location imaginable: web, mobile, TV, audio, video, etc.
Some might argue that this collection could serve another purpose, one that is actually very consumer focused: convenience. If your television can deliver ads more relevant for you to buy, is a little tracking across your devices really so harmful? Many will argue: yes.
CDD sent the report to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which is scheduled to vote on whether they need to enact tougher privacy rules for ISPs. These ISPs have (predictably) opposed the proposals, saying it’s not necessary for the FCC to get involved.
Jon Banks, senior vice president at the trade group USTelecom, whose members include ISPs, said “It’s curious that CDD seems to be asking the Federal Communications Commission to impose stricter obligations only on ISPs but is not pushing for the same consumer protections when it comes to other companies that have long used similar and more detailed data to generate enormous advertising businesses.” He added, “Consumers deserve consistent privacy protections as they use the Internet.”
In an email, he also claimed that service providers are committed to protecting customer privacy and pointed out that ISPs are subject to privacy oversight from the Federal Trade Commission, as other Internet companies are.
The FCC reclassified broadband as a regulated, common-carrier service in net neutrality rules passed in February 2015. This means the authority for policing broadband privacy from the Federal Trade Commission to the FCC.