Internet Service Providers Collect More Data Than You Know

As mentioned in a press release, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report reveals that internet service providers (ISPs) are sharing a lot more information about consumers without their consent. This information includes the user’s internet traffic and their real-time location data as well.

The report goes on to say that consumers are left with no choices about the ways their information is to be used. The report has covered six of the largest internet service providers in the US, with a consumer base spanning 98 percent of the market for internet mobile. The ISPs examined include telecom giants like AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile.

What Does the Federal Trade Commission Report Say?

The FTC report states that they have noted in their study the evolving of these ISPs as tech giants who bring to the table not only internet services but a wide range of other services. It has put them in a position to gather more information about their customers.

The report goes on to identify data collection practices adopted by several of the ISPs that raise genuine concerns. They have been found to combine user data covering several product lines and personal app usage data as well. It’s been observed that they also place consumers into categories based on race and sexual orientation. ISPs even share real-time location data of consumers with several third parties.

The report has also noted a breach of promise by the ISPs. While several of them had committed to not using consumers’ data, it was found that they had allowed the use of such data, its transfer, and monetization by others. What’s more, the ISPs didn’t bother to disclose that they had adopted such practices in their privacy policy fine print either. It was also found that the real-time location data of consumers was being shared with third parties such as bounty hunters, property managers, bail bondsmen, and car salesmen.

The report further finds that while the ISPs had claimed to offer the consumer the choice to decide about how their data should be used, it was difficult for the consumer to make use of those choices to protect their privacy. It was also noted that the data was being kept on file much longer than initially expected.

It’s also noted that due to their privacy practices and protections being complicated, they intrude into consumer privacy at least as much as large advertising platforms do. It’s because the ISPs can reach the entire unencrypted internet traffic details of their consumers directly.

Who is Responsible for The Current State of Affairs?

In the aftermath of the FTC report, American senator Ron Wyden has said in a statement that the former head of the FTC, Ajit Pai, is allegedly the one responsible for the lack of privacy that these tech firms have shown towards their consumers. They have generated business from the personal data of their consumers. After all, ever since revoking net neutrality, things have changed tremendously in the US.

Ron Wyden also says that if Congress had been waiting for credible proof to decide that the US is in desperate need of a consumer privacy law, the wait is over. The Federal Trade Commission’s report on how the internet service providers have rampantly misused their consumers’ personal information should be a push to act.

What Can Consumers Do?

Your ISP has the main role in dealing with your internet traffic. Thus, without proper legislation controlling their behavior, they can influence your experience in many ways. For one, they can split traffic into fast and slow lanes, preferring the traffic of their partners. As a result, it might be difficult for you to access other websites and services. Additionally, internet service providers can throttle your connection. It means that your internet performance is unstable and often leaves much to be desired.

Well, what can consumers do about this? Well, using a VPN is one of the options you have. A Virtual Private Network encrypts your internet traffic. Thus, internet service providers can no longer see what you are doing online. As a result, they cannot extract certain insights about your behavior. Additionally, they will struggle to throttle your traffic if it happens once these services detect certain activities.

Conclusion

The current conditions are not favorable to users. Thus, it is expected that authorities will act upon people’s concerns and needs. Until that happens, users can use certain tools to protect themselves. However, adequate legislation is what can make a true difference for all.

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