back to article It's 'near-impossible to escape persistent surveillance' by American ISPs, says FTC

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said many internet service providers are sharing data about their customers, in defiance of expectations, and are failing to give subscribers adequate choices about whether or how their data is shared. The trade watchdog's findings arrived in the form of a report [PDF] undertaken in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Read it, it's still pretty toothless

    Despite seemingly also being mostly footnotes, the FCC report bends over backwards to avoid providing specific evidence, facts, or data about the numerous shady practices it outlines. It strongly implies is has or has seen this information, but does not deign to share it in the text. It also refuses to name which ISPs are engaging in specific acts of ad targeting, dark pattern opt-outs, or marketing of data to third parties.

    This is especially spineless when some of the categories they list are straight up racist, and are clearly being used to enable redlining. That should be called out in report, not left as an implication and an exercise for readers to discover the facts on their own.

    This report should be a call to action, not an attempt to obfuscate the names of the guilty parties.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Yet Another Easy Fix (YaEF?)

      recall that NordVPN keeps NO logs

      Uh huh. Pull the other one, mate... it's got bells on.

    2. I am David Jones
      WTF?

      Re: Yet Another Easy Fix (YaEF?)

      So….. exactly what percentage of the general population do you think would find your solution to be “easy”?

    3. Woodnag Silver badge

      Re: Yet Another Easy Fix (YaEF?)

      Doesn't NordVPN provide a DNS service?

  3. HildyJ Silver badge
    Facepalm

    All that's left

    "All that's left is for the FTC and FCC to punish egregious data grabbers in a non-trivial way and for Congress to actually approve meaningful privacy legislation and send it to the White House."

    So, basically, when pigs fly.

    Hope for the best, expect the worst.

    1. EricB123

      Re: All that's left

      You stole my thunder. I was just about to post a snarky reply to the "solution". Except using far more abrasive language than "when pigs fly".

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Shared?

    How much of this data is actually shared?

    Shared implies it is given away so that everybody gets some benefit, why not just call it what it is, selling and monetisation?.

    1. Pseu Donyme

      Re: Shared?

      I suspect that promises not to sell user data rely on a deliberate misdirection based on a legal definition of selling where the seller transfers all of its rights to what is being sold the buyer for monetary compensation; the data is not sold in this sense, but rather a copy is licensed on a non-exclusive basis (if for money, then it would still qualify as selling in an everyday sense, of course).

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Shared?

        You only need to look at the May 2021 Signal Ad campaign on Facebook to see that whilst FB didn't sell any user data to Signal, it gave Signal sufficient keywords to enable Signal to target specific users.

  5. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    Poor sods

    They are forced to monetize their users' information to break even, lobbying doesn't come cheap...

    1. EricB123

      Re: Poor sods

      I would much prefer the word "bribing" instead of "lobbying" to be used.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Poor sods

        Come on, "lobbying" is the politically correct term, and nowadays it's all about being politically correct, isn't it. Form over content.

  6. TaabuTheCat

    This isn't hard, and it's not nuanced.

    It's simple. Sign up for any service, app. etc with data collection capabilities and you are immediately presented a list the first time you use such service/app:

    Here's what we collect, here's what we do with it.

    Your viewing habits. We sell that to advertisers and use it to insert custom ads in your TV stream. You never have to leave your bubble.

    Your race. We "share" that so others can discriminate against you without you ever knowing.

    Your location. We sell that so marketers, your local divorce attorney and anyone else willing to pay can stalk you wherever you go.

    Your buying habits. We use that to figure out how much all of your other data is worth.

    Next to each item is an opt-in/opt-out choice, with opt-out selected by default.

    If the provider wants to pitch the benefits of opting in, great, have at in plain language with no dark patterns or implied threats of reduced functionality allowed. Same for offering discounts to opt in or charging more if you choose to opt out.

    I expect most consumers would be shocked to see the length of the list, just as they were when Apple started making apps fess up to what they were collecting. Consumers are largely choosing not to not participate in the data grab when given even a modicum of choice. Make disclosure and user choice mandatory.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: This isn't hard, and it's not nuanced.

      Trouble is increasingly company's don't permit you to access their products if you select any options that go against their commercial interests...

      As we are seeing with Windows 11, no MS account and thus opt-in for US standard data collection, you won't be able to use W11.

      1. X5-332960073452
        Stop

        Re: This isn't hard, and it's not nuanced.

        This 'requirement' can be side stepped (they don't make it easy), I pity the 'average' user who will be tricked into using an M$ account.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've been using a VPN for years now, to avoid this kind of thing. Not one of the Youtube sponsored ones either, a small, competent, no-logging, anonymous (allows payment by Bitcoin) one. And for anything remotely interesting, I layer TOR on top of it. Check mate.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      You don't know if there is no logging, BTC is not anonymous either.

      You are just banking on an idea that nobody is going to care about some small VPN.

      But small VPN will not have any defence if any agency will ask for logs or to make a tap.

    2. Sixtiesplastictrektableware

      What keeps grass greener

      Talking out my bailiwick again, but:

      I'm all philo-VPN too (haven't tried TOR yet, it's always sounded intriguing), but signing up with anything is just asking for entanglement. Unless it's your own setup, you're just hoping people won't crumple under pressure.

      I've taken the view that paying for that uncertainty is kinda poo-poo kah-kah. If you're not doing crazy resource intensive things (bailiwick-less, it occurs maybe you are), there's good freebies out there.

      Last PEBKAC question: how can any VPN purveyor guarantee their system isn't gonna flux to circumstance? External, mechanical or brain trust issues always seem to come up unless there's a huge army of administration. Why pay for the same service that's for free?

      1. EricB123

        Re: What keeps grass greener

        "poo-poo kah-kah"?

        "When pigs fly"?

        Almost enough to make me miss the profanity from a few weeks ago

  8. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Cooking the frog

    If average Joe did something wrong, they'd bag him up and close his little business.

    Here we see collusion in a broad daylight. The goal is to communicate to people that they are being under surveillance, little by little until people become indifferent to it.

    For average citizen, such surveillance won't change their life in any bit. Getting screwed by getting wrongly flagged for something of course will happen to some, but majority of population thinks "there is no smoke without a fire", so they will likely side with the authorities anyway.

    After several years, maybe a decade of such theatre, there will be claims that there is no coming back from this as the systems will be so dependent on surveillance it will paralyse the country had it got outlawed.

    Companies will be also claiming "traditional use", as it "always has been this way and there was no public outrage". Various agencies of course will have taps to all this data and there will be no interest in changing that either.

    1. Sixtiesplastictrektableware

      Re: Cooking the frog

      They gotta ease people into it, for sure. Their only problem (but slowly overcoming it) is the fact that there're still people old enough to remember what life is without it.

  9. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Boffin

    I read a lot

    Providing volunteer cloud hosting at home must make my marketing profile interesting. Just this week I found the time to read millions of Wikipedia articles and MOOCs in multiple languages.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021