Digital advertising is about to get creepily smart
Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast and and AT&T are about to take “know your customer” to the next level, thanks to recent government legislation.
ISPs will have unrestricted access to users’ sensitive data, making them essentially the all-knowing oracle of consumer behaviors and preferences.
The US House of Representative and Senate passed S.J. Res 34, a measure that eliminates consumer broadband privacy rules enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last October requiring ISPs to get consumers’ permission before collecting personal information like browsing history, geo-location data, and financial information.
The rules also required more transparency from ISPs regarding their data collection and sales practices.
Profiting on your privacy
President Donald Trump signed this measure on April 3rd, giving ISPs practically unlimited freedom to create a vast repository of personal information and do whatever they want with it.
This includes selling it to third-party companies for digital advertising purposes.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) claims this measure will make the internet an unfriendly, even frightening, place for consumers.
Wary of the world wide web
The vote on S.J. Res. 34 passed by a very narrow margin along party lines, leaving many observers enraged and concerned. The EFF warned of the potential danger of such personal information in the hands of ISPs:
“They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent.”
While this is merely a prediction, it echoes the concerns of most tech industry experts and observers that S.J. Res. 34 will put consumers in a very vulnerable position.
Step aside, Google and Facebook
Proponents of the measure argue that search engines and social networks like Facebook and Google have access to such large quantities of data, giving them an extreme advantage in the digital ad space, calling the current conditions “government intervention in the free market.”
They claim that offering ISPs the same privilege is only fair.
While users can choose to stay off Facebook and Google, avoiding ISPs is less easy. This means ISPs will not only have data from way more customers — they will have way more data from each customer, due to their unique ability to track every individual site a customer visits.
A new digital empire
Major ISPs have acquired companies like Time Warner, NBC Universal, AOL, and Yahoo in recent years to secure a presence in the digital advertising market.
Yet an omniscient view of internet users at large will do more than expand that presence.
It will overturn longstanding digital hierarchies, possibly making ISPs even more powerful than Google and Amazon.
You can’t hide
This new measure sparks the question of whether it’s more important to be fair to ISPs or to be respectful of consumers.
Whatever side you’re on, one thing’s certain: advertisers are about to know you better than you know yourself.