FTC to Examine ISP Privacy Practices on Consumer Behavior and Device Use

AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber, T-Mobile and Verizon are all being analyzed

The FTC is looking into how major broadband players use consumer data. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

The Federal Trade Commission said in a statement on Tuesday that it is looking into how major U.S. internet broadband providers “collect, retain, use and disclose information” about consumers and the devices they use to access the internet.

As part of an examination into the privacy practices of big internet service providers, the FTC said it had issued an order to seven companies, which includes AT&T, Comcast, Google Fiber, T-Mobile and Verizon, seeking information about their privacy and data practices.

As part of the study, the FTC has told these companies to detail the kinds of personal information that they collect; how the information is handled, including whether the data is aggregated, anonymized and deidentified; and how companies inform consumers about their data collection practices and what processes are in place to allow consumers to “access, correct or delete their personally.” The FTC  is also looking into whether the companies “offer consumers choices about the collection, retention, use and disclosure of personal information and whether the companies have denied or degraded service to consumers who decline to opt-in to data collection.”

The companies have 45 days to provide the requested information, according to a copy of the order that the FTC provided. A copy of the full letter sent to the companies and the full list of information the FTC is requesting can be accessed here.

The inquiry into the privacy practices of U.S. ISPs comes amid a broader inquiry into data privacy practices of major internet and tech companies. The commission has held a number of hearings related to data privacy and consumer protection as federal lawmakers have grappled with giving the commission more authority over making and enforcing rules related to data privacy.

The FTC is slated to hold additional hearings on April 9 and 10 to focus on the commission’s approach to consumer privacy.

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@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.
Publish date: March 26, 2019 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/ftc-to-examine-isp-privacy-practices-on-consumer-behavior-and-device-use/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT