AT&T, Comcast and Verizon explain that they don’t sell your browser history

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Comcast:

We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual web browsing history. We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so.

Verizon:

Let’s set the record straight. Verizon does not sell the personal web browsing history of our customers. We don’t do it and that’s the bottom line.

Those statements are true, however, if you read past the “commitment to privacy” headlines, you’ll notice that both companies have other plans in place for selling customer data. Comcast uses “non-personally identifiable information” from internet and cable TV packages, while Verizon makes similar claims about its advertising policies.

What those posts leave out, is how that information, once shared, can become a part of what those companies’ partners know about you. as a 60 Minutes report detailed in 2014, data brokers can specialize in taking that “non-PII” data and tying it back to a person based on what they know about their location and demographics. Now that you, the consumer, are frequently ingesting media on multiple platforms at a time, that information is becoming even more valuable. It’s the kind of thing Vizio was trying to accomplish with its Inscape advertising program — until the FTC punished it for automatically opting customers in without informing them well enough about what it was doing.

As AT&T’s post describes, the ISP argument is that since “other internet companies, including operating system providers, web browsers, search engines, and social media platforms” collect (for example) location data and aren’t regulated by the FCC, restricting an ISP from doing it is just confusing customers anyway.

The ISPs and their lobbyists have argued that the FTC should be in charge of all of this, however, AdAge explains, it’s unlikely that agency will impose such strict policies. While these companies can tell you what they’re not doing with your browsing history right now, it’s impossible to know if that will change based on regulations that may or may not come in the future. While we wait to see what ultimately happens to protect your data, I can point you to information about advertising opt-outs for AT&T, Comcast (TV & internet), and AOL/Verizon.

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