Tag Archives: fcc

ISPs selling personal data: we need to frame the debate around consent

The US Senate’s vote to roll back rules preventing ISPs from collecting and selling personal data has generated an enormous amount of controversy.

On the one hand, de-regulating the stifled and stagnating US economy is a necessary move to restart growth and boost innovation.

And of course everyone understands businesses want and need data – it’s their fuel, their magic juice – and something they rely on heavily to try and stay ahead of their competitors.

But those arguments, valid as they are to a degree, overlook the big elephant in the room: consent. Specifically, the rights of individuals to have a say in what happens to some pretty sensitive personal data collected about them through their full browsing history.

Consent is the missing ingredient in this current debate – and its omission means all sides lose out.

Individuals, of course, lose out in this equation because their personal data is being sold on behind their backs without their consent, or indeed without any benefit to them.

But businesses are losing too because they would get better quality, more useful data if they went direct to the source – the individual themselves – and offered something desirable as an exchange.

Additionally, their ability to thrive depends on them being able to deliver the right offer to the right person at the right time. This, in turn, requires better engagement overall, and engagement means conversation. What better way to have a conversation then by starting the relationship asking for data rather than taking or buying it?

Of course, here at digi.me, where we have built our vision on the Internet of Me principles and ideals of the individual at the centre of their connected world, in control of what happens to their data, it’s no big surprise which side we are leaning towards.

But it’s clear there are an ongoing debate and awareness-raising to be had about ethics and best practice around the issue of personal data.

While the House has now also voted in favour of this bill, it’s not completely clear whether the White House will sign it without amendments.

But President Trump has said time and time again that he is the people’s voice – and now is a perfect time for this new Administration to hear this voice.

There are increasingly ways, such as digi.me, for both privacy and data-sharing to be compatible, and these should be explored –  although consent is always the better choice, resulting as it does in a more meaningful dialogue.

The bottom line here is that the ISPs are acting perfectly legally, and feeding businesses who are desperate for data and know – at the moment – of no other way to get it.

This change will come, both in awareness and through legislation such as the EU GDPR, which gives many more rights back to individuals around their personal data, and which we firmly believe will prove to be a boon to businesses and innovation when it comes into law next year.

But until then the focus should not be on condemnation or scorn, but showing a better way through the use of data consented at the source.

Then, and only then, can we move forward into a world where our data is ours alone and we share it only through choice.

FCC moves to protect customer data from ISPs and ’empower’ users

Broadband providers in the US could be prohibited from selling customer data without prior consumer consent if new proposals by the Federal Communications Commission become law.

Even as the country grapples with the issue of security vs privacy in the Apple/FBI stand-off, the FCC has signaled that it thinks Government regulation has a greater role to play in personal privacy.

Crucially, it says the increase in online activity means now is the right time to bring Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who know huge amounts about users’ lives, habits and financial and medical details through online use, into line with phone companies, who are limited to what they can repurpose and resell from what they glean about user behaviour.

In a blog post titled It’s Your Data: Empowering Consumers to Protect Online Privacy, chairman Tom Wheeler said it’s common knowledge that social media platforms and websites we visit collect personal information and sell it for advertising purposes, but that we can choose to leave or switch at will.

He said: “Seldom, however, do we stop to realize that our Internet Service Provider (ISP) is also collecting information about us. What’s more, we can choose not to visit a website or sign up for a social network, or choose to drop one and switch to another. Broadband service is different. Once you subscribe to an Internet service provider — for your home or for your smartphone — you have little flexibility to change your mind or avoid that network.

“Think about it. Your ISP handles all of your network traffic. That means it has a broad view of all of your unencrypted online activity — when you are online, the websites you visit, and the apps you use. If you have a mobile device, your provider can track your physical location throughout the day in real time.

“Even when data is encrypted, your broadband provider can piece together significant amounts of information about you — including private information such as a chronic medical condition or financial problems — based on your online activity.”

Under his proposals, ISPs would still be allowed to use customer data to provide a full broadband service, and for related marketing and billing purposes, including with their affiliates, unless users opt out. But all other uses and sharing of personal data would require specific opt in consent.

He stated: “I’m proposing to my colleagues that we empower consumers to ensure they have control over how their information is used by their Internet Service Provider. Every broadband consumer should have the right to know what information is being collected and how it is used. Every broadband consumer should have the right to choose how their information bits should be used and shared. And every consumer should be confident that their information is being securely protected.

“Simply by using the Internet, you have no choice but to share large amounts of personal information with your broadband provider. You have a right to know what information is being collected about you and how that information is being used. That’s why establishing baseline privacy standards for ISPs is a common sense idea whose time has come. The bottom line is that it’s your data. How it’s used and shared should be your choice.”

Here at digi.me, we couldn’t agree more – in fact our entire business model and vision is built around just that, so we’re delighted to hear as big and influential body as the FCC singing to the same tune. The personal data revolution is, indeed, a common sense idea whose time has come. And that will benefit each and every one of us, including the businesses who want our data.