While we are well aware that big Internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook are in the business of monitoring our online habits to shore up their revenues through ads, there is some sort of deeper Web tracking activity going on that may have slipped our notice.
For example, Google wants to know how often you search for online dating sites in order to tailor related ads to you or to serve up the best online dating site to your screen the next time you visit Google. Similarly, Facebook could be in the lookout for the search terms you enter into the site’s search bar so that you begin to see ads on your home page related to your search key.
But beyond all that, Internet service providers are also in the habit of tracking your online activities to collect data on how long you were reading an article on a particular website, for example, or what tourist destination you intend to visit during your next vacation.
ISPs have broader leverage over these pieces of information compared to Google or Facebook because they have a way of knowing all your online activities. For example, an ISP knows that you are searching for something on Google while watching a movie on Netflix or looking for a date on Tinder.
By comparison, Google and Facebook can only have a portion of these insights as their scope is limited in contrast to ISPs. Therefore, Internet providers are at a great advantage over tech firms in terms of the coverage of data.
All this because Internet providers have a full view of everything you do online if you have not plugged the hole that permits them to snoop on your virtual life. And they can then share the insights gathered from their tracking of your online activities with marketers who are always hungry of massive amounts of data. Besides, there is no law yet that bans the sharing of these data with third-party companies.
That is why privacy groups are urging the federal government to speed up efforts intended to block Internet providers from taking advantage of user data to their benefits in an unfair manner. Broadband companies like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and the likes have always been targeting consumer data to increase revenues. In fact, those companies have made a series of acquisitions in order to achieve their goals.
It puts users at a disadvantage because companies would profit from their data without them benefiting in return and without their prior consent.