Today, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a damning report on internet service providers’ (ISP) invasive data practices that violate the right to privacy and nondiscrimination. The companies analyzed include AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Charter, Comcast, Google Fiber, and T-Mobile.
Among the findings, the FTC stated that ISPs
- Collect data that could lead to digital red-lining and other civil rights violations;
- Group people by sensitive characteristics (such as race, sexual orientation, and religious views) to target ads;
- Share real-time location data of people using their product;
- Make it difficult for people to opt-out or access their information;
- Make their data practices opaque or bury them in fine print;
- Have insufficient data retention policies;
- Collect data not needed to provide internet service, including web browsing history that is used to target ads; and
- Use manipulative user interfaces to nudge people to share data.
“The FTC’s report proves that ISPs are just as privacy-invasive as large advertising platforms, like Facebook and Google,” said Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Analyst at Access Now. “The hyper-granular targeting ability of ISPs, particularly based on sensitive information like race and sexual orientation, is extremely harmful. ISPs need to minimize the data they collect to prevent further harm to people who buy their services, especially the most vulnerable. We urge the FTC to take immediate enforcement action against these companies to send a clear signal that violating human rights to turn a profit is never acceptable.”
In addition to the FTC taking a stand against data abuse, it is critical that the U.S. Congress pass a federal comprehensive data privacy law that includes data minimization requirements. To learn more about the importance of data minimization to protect privacy and uphold human rights, read Access Now’s report.