American online users face a growing new threat to the privacy that they have been fighting so hard for as a new report indicates that phone and cable Internet Service Providers have merged to target users with data-driven personalized advertising. Leading Internet companies are part of the group too, as they extend and expand the ability to get details from our browsing behaviors and history online for advertisements.
The report put several companies into the spotlight including, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Charter, Cox, Verizon, Dish, Time Warner Cable, Viacom, Google, News Corp. Fox, Turner Broadcasting (Time Warner), and Disney. The report focuses on the recent video and data related adverts that these companies have implemented recently.
On the other hand, ISPs have entered partnerships with some of the biggest data brokers which include, Acxiom, Krux, and Oracle Marketing Cloud. This helps the Internet service providers to gain knowledge of our offline and online behaviors. The practices that they have enabled, called the ‘Big Data’ practices allow fast and instantaneous buying and selling of consumers. The process goes on without consumer’s knowledge, and the data is sold to fast food joints, financial marketers, and health advertisers.
ISPs have also gone further by establishing a television presence whereby they can see our viewing habits and connecting them with our offline and online information. Our viewing habits are now a new source of personal information. The combination of offline and online habits with television viewing habits creates so-called digital dossiers.
This ability of ISPs to identify users no matter the device they are on completely eradicates the little privacy that was in place when a person used a different device.
The report provides information on the “digital data arms race.”
- AT&T, through its AdWorks division, has developed a “cross-screen system to match users’ mobile, online and television devices together based on identifiers and methods” that the company has “access to.”
- Comcast is using Rubicon’s Advertising Automation Cloud, “one of the largest cloud and Big Data computing systems in the world, [which] leverages over 50,000 algorithms and analysed billions of data points in real time” to buy and sell individuals to marketers.
- Verizon, by acquiring mobile-marketing-data company Millennial Media, gained access to customer data gathered by more than 60,000 apps, including “location, social, interest, and contextual” information.
The Federal Communications Commission is set for a meeting to discuss broadband and way forward with security. The meeting is also going to examine the relationship between the sets of companies mentioned above and their roles in giving out data to each other.
People argue that the FCC should enable privacy and consumer protection which gives users rights over their data. Unless something of this sort is done, ISPs and other players will continue to control the way programming is financially supported and distributed.