FTC report finds many internet service providers collect troves of personal data

A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission staff shows that many internet service providers (ISPs) collect far more data about their customers than many consumers may expect — including access to their Internet traffic and real-time location data — while failing to offer consumers meaningful choices about how they may use the data.

Focusing on the practices of 6 companies, the report identifies several troubling 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 also finds that the privacy protections many of the companies offer raised concerns. Even though some 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 fine print of their privacy policies.

Many of the ISPs also claim to offer consumers choices about how their data is used and allow them to access such data. The FTC found, however, that many of these companies often make it difficult for consumers to exercise such choices and sometimes even nudge them to share even more information.

The FTC's staff report is here.

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