What Is Your ISP?
What is an ISP?
ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. These are the companies that manage our connection to the Internet. Some of us may have separate contracts for TV streaming, a landline connection, home Internet and mobile Internet, but often these services are cheaper as a package deal with a single company.
Your ISP is the gateway to your household's entire online experience, whether on WiFi or a mobile connection.
Log in with your account on your ISP's website, and then look for their customer page on privacy. Your company may present a summary online, but I would download the entire policy as a PDF.
The biggest surprise was that my ISP pays other big data companies to collect even more information about me and my family than they already have. They do this in order to build a 'profile'.
Here's a list of key findings from the document:
the ISP's list of all the potential data they might collect on a single user is extensive; all potential data points were shown in tables spanning several pages
they store TV viewing and online surfing behaviours of their clients for at least a year
guests who use your WiFi network have their data collected
new clients have to opt out of a lower tier of privacy protection manually
the ISP buys additional data about me, my family, my finances from data brokers in order to create a 'profile', which is kept for 10 years
the ISP sells my data to Google, Facebook, and data brokers for targeted advertising; this is presented as a benefit to the user
the ISP can record which websites you visited but not the content seen; whether or not they do this depends on your privacy tier
they can see how long you were on a site, and which device (mac) and ip address you were using, again, depending on your tier
they keep information about you for 3 years after you end the contract
And some positives:
children opt in to the most stringent privacy tier by default, and remain there into their teens
they cannot store the content of calls, text messages and emails
they cannot store or access 'sensitive information' (sexual preference, ethnicity, political views, religion)
they train their staff on privacy rights and protections
the documentation was presented in a clear style with helpful links to opt out
After reading the document, I took the following actions:
I requested a copy of my entire user data profile and asked to have it delivered by snail mail
I checked my privacy tier and made sure it was set to the strictest settings
I checked my children's profiles and ensured the same, but this had been done by default
There are just a handful of ISP companies your can choose from, so it is important to know what standards they hold themselves to regarding privacy, for you and anyone in your household.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, can help address this problem, and I am currently learning about them. More about that in a future post.
Proton published a comprehensive article titled "What is an ISP?" in March 2023.
Log in with your user account on your ISP's website to access the full documentation on client data. I recommend reading the entire document.
I had already started a discussion about this on r/privacy earlier this week.
Discuss on Reddit.