Method 5: Internet Service Providers

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There are a lot of ways that companies gather your data. One method, which I find the creepiest, is Internet Service Providers.

If you pay $50/month, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like Verizon, Time Warner, or Comcast will happily give you home wifi. Given how much the internet facilitates your daily life, education, and career, this seems like a small price to pay. Unfortunately, it comes with some hidden costs and risks too.

Unlike with large-scale aggregation, web analytics, Terms & Conditions, or third-party cookies, ISPs have no boundaries around what they can see. “ISPs have access to 100% of your online activity [on their network].”5 Your ISP can see every site/search/message/click that’s performed on your home wifi. And your school’s or company’s ISP can see every site/search/message/click that’s performed on their network. In essence, an ISP can see the whole picture.

Today, ISPs don’t make money selling your data… but they certainly could. As Shelly Palmer suggests in “Internet Privacy 2017: What You Need to Know,” ISPs could add “intelligence layers” between you and their network, easily allowing AI to advertise to you.6

But most of the people who are worried about ISPs aren’t worried about advertising; they’re worried about the government. In 2006, an AT&T employee revealed that user data was being siphoned off from AT&T to the US National Security Agency (NSA).7 And, in 2013, Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s “collect-it-all” approach to user data and surveillance.8

In this digital obesity project, I won’t be exploring people’s concerns about government surveillance. However, it’s important to note that their fears about collusion between ISPs and the NSA stem from the ISPs’ unparalleled access to data.

So, there you have it: the five creepy methods that companies use to gather your data. Of course, for simplicity’s sake, there are plenty of other methods that I didn’t touch on, like browser fingerprints. And technology is always changing, so there will always be new methods for tracking us online. If you want to know more about why we’re tracked and how to prevent it, just keep reading!

Header image by Icon Master from Noun Project

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References:

  1. Shelly Palmer. “Internet Privacy 2017: what you need to know.” AdAge. April 5, 2017. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  2. Shelly Palmer. “Internet Privacy 2017: what you need to know.” AdAge. April 5, 2017. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  3. David Kravets. “NSA Leak Vindicates AT&T Whistleblower.” Wired. June 27, 2013. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  4. John Cheney-Lippold, We Are Data: Algorithms and The Making of Our Digital Selves. New York University Press. 2017 (154-155).
  5. Shelly Palmer. “Internet Privacy 2017: what you need to know.” AdAge. April 5, 2017. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  6. Shelly Palmer. “Internet Privacy 2017: what you need to know.” AdAge. April 5, 2017. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  7. David Kravets. “NSA Leak Vindicates AT&T Whistleblower.” Wired. June 27, 2013. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  8. John Cheney-Lippold, We Are Data: Algorithms and The Making of Our Digital Selves. New York University Press. 2017 (154-155).
  9. Shelly Palmer. “Internet Privacy 2017: what you need to know.” AdAge. April 5, 2017. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  10. Shelly Palmer. “Internet Privacy 2017: what you need to know.” AdAge. April 5, 2017. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  11. David Kravets. “NSA Leak Vindicates AT&T Whistleblower.” Wired. June 27, 2013. Web. Accessed on 12/13/17.
  12. John Cheney-Lippold, We Are Data: Algorithms and The Making of Our Digital Selves. New York University Press. 2017 (154-155).