A new report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is revealing that internet service providers (ISPs) are collecting and sharing far more data about their customers than many consumers may think, as per a press release. This includes access to all of their Internet traffic and real-time location data.
The report also found that the ISPSs were not offering consumers meaningful choices about how this data can be used. The report examined six internet service providers, which make up about 98 percent of the mobile Internet market, including AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile.
"As noted in the report, these companies have evolved into technology giants who offer not just internet services but also provide a range of other services including voice, content, smart devices, advertising, and analytics — which has increased the volume of information they are capable of collecting about their customers," said the FTC in its statement.
The report identified several concerning data collection practices among several of the ISPs, including that "they combine data across product lines; combine personal, app usage, and web browsing data to target ads; place consumers into sensitive categories such as by race and sexual orientation; and share real-time location data with third-parties."
The report further found that even though several of the ISPs promised not to sell consumers' personal data, they allowed it to be used, transferred, and monetized by others. They also hid disclosures about such practices in the fine print of their privacy policies.
Subscribers’ real-time location data shared was found to be shared with third-party customers such as "car salesmen, property managers, bail bondsmen, bounty hunters, and others."
Finally, the report revealed that although the ISPs claimed to offer consumers choices about how their data is used, they actually made it difficult for consumers to exercise such choices and that they kept data on file for much longer than expected.
The reports highlight how unsafe we are online and why the need for greater ISP monitoring is required.