FTC announces inquiry into the privacy practices of broadband providers

The Federal Trade Commission today announced an extensive investigation into the privacy practices of Internet service providers requesting large companies such as AT & T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to provide non-public information describing how they handle customer data. the consumers. It is an important step towards monitoring and regulating the amount of data that ISPs can collect on their customers and the amount of data that can be shared.

FTC President Joe Simons hinted that he would conduct this study last week, and told lawmakers that the FTC was "developing plans to issue 6 (b) orders in the area of ‚Äč‚Äčtechnology." It was assumed that the study would be submerged in Big Tech's data practices, but today's announcement is surprisingly applicable to ISPs.

"The FTC is initiating this study to better understand the privacy practices of Internet service providers in light of the evolution of telecommunications companies into vertically integrated platforms that also provide content with advertising," reads the press release. "Under current law, the FTC has the ability to enforce unfair and deceptive practices involving Internet service providers."

Following significant content acquisitions by Verizon and AT & T, many expressed concern that ISPs could use provider-level data to power a new type of targeted advertising business that would compete with Facebook and Google. In 2015, Verizon was found to track subscribers on Verizon-owned AOL sites using an unlockable "supercookie," a practice that ultimately resulted in a FCC fine.

In 2016, the FCC approved new rules that would require ISPs to obtain explicit permission from subscribers to share their "sensitive" information. This included data such as financial information, location or use of a subscriber's application, along with the content of their emails and other communications. However, under the chairmanship of Ajit Pai the following year, the FCC prevented these new rules from coming into effect, which leaves the FTC to determine how to regulate ISPs and their behavior with respect to data privacy.

In the FTC press today, the regulator called some of the larger ISPs such as AT & T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Xfinity and Google Fiber to provide information on what type of data is collected, why it is collected, if these data are shared with third parties, and procedures that allow consumers to make changes or delete their personal information.

The FTC has granted companies up to 45 days to deliver the requested information.

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