FCC Chairman Pai Endorses Invasion of Your Privacy and Digital Stalking

03/02/2017 04:48 am ET

The FCC has decided it will allow the invasion of your privacy and Digital Stalking, and claims that the Federal Trade Commission, FTC, has been an effective cop on the beat.

“The FTC had proven to be an effective cop on the beat for safeguarding digital privacy.”
“Today’s stay will also ensure that ISPs and other telecommunications carriers do not incur substantial and unnecessary compliance costs while the Commission considers modifications to the rule.”

In what universe do we want the companies that supply basic communications services to track and spy on us with hundreds of affiliates and 3rd party ad-tracking, spyware, web-bugs, beacons, multi-device analytics and ad-tech? And why would we want these companies to make money off of us, at every turn, by selling this info? I’ll get back to this in a second.

The Grotesque: Spies and Cookie Monsters.

Let’s start off with just how well the FTC and government are safeguarding your privacy with an easy test: Go to this link and tell me how many companies are spying on you, sticking themselves in your browser:

Test Your Browser: Click Here: http://www.aboutads.info/choices/

When I went to this site last week I found 39 companies were attached to my browser out of a group of 127 companies who belong to the “Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) Self-Regulatory Program” that are supposedly doing self-regulation.

Who the hell are these web-browser sycophants? I have no contract or agreement with them and I never gave any of them permission to enter my browser—my private property.

In fact, 67 companies reported “status information” about the browser, but 60 companies didn’t make available the status information.

Here is the statement from one of companies about what they do--selling the data about where you go and what apps you are using on all devices.

We note that these companies have left software residing in the browser and they know exactly who the customer is and where they go online, what they buy, etc.

Polite Companies vs the Uninvited Mob

The members of the DAA are the polite companies that have decided to band together to create a series of self-serving ‘principles’ that are still questionable as they are entering the user’s browser without permission or a contract to allow them enter private property, uninvited. And if they say that they got there via a web site, then say: ‘show us the “terms and conditions” that list these companies by name’. It doesn’t exist, as far as we can tell.

But it continues to get worse. There are thousands of companies who put ‘cookies’ in a user’s browser; software and code to do a number of who-knows-what things. Using some tech tools, we found that the browser had 4,229 different ‘cookies’ lodged in the browser’s storage area, which represented about 1,472 different companies that have virally attached themselves. We could only identify 14.6% companies. Thus, about 85%, about 1,250 companies, are part of an uninvited mob.

Here are the first 10 cookies uncovered. Of this list, the only cookie we identified was ABCgo.com. It is clear that virtually every website will make sure they leave you with a way to track you by adding ad-tech to your browser.

And please don’t yell ‘add-blocker’, etc. The browser uses two different programs and except for ‘cleansing’ the browser, and stopping the process, (which blocks specific good places on the web, for example, to pay bills securely) the truth is – most people have no clue about the extent that they are being spied on and what to do about it.

The FCC Is Working for the Carriers, Not You.

The FCC’s decision to slap privacy in the face allows Verizon or AT&T, etc. to own the data about you, which extends to your friends, family, work, etc., which they can use and sell, without your permission.

Simply put, the phone, internet, wireless, cable, broadband companies get to not only spy and track you, but can make more money from your info. Moreover, they can also hand over your info to their affiliates – hundreds of companies, thanks to the FCC’s decision to not fix this problem. And, let’s face it; the FCC is clueless if it thinks that the FTC is an ‘effective cop’.

Let’s be clear; Verizon admits it has been spying on customers for years.

C/NET quoted Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless in 2012.

“‘We’re able to view just everything that they (the customers) do,’ Bill Diggins, U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless marketing initiative, told an industry conference earlier this year. ‘And that’s really where data is going today. Data is the new oil.’
“Verizon’s Diggins touted the carrier’s extensive monitoring abilities: ‘We’re able to analyze what people are viewing on their handsets. If you’re at an MLB game, we can tell if you’re viewing ESPN, we can tell if you’re viewing MLB, we can tell what social networking sites you’re activating, if you’re sending out mobile usage content that’s user-generated on video’.”

And Verizon, AT&T, and the cablecos are ISPs and are NOT like these other companies. They are the providers of the Internet Service, the broadband service, the wireless service and the cable service. These companies control the networks, and have the information of where you go, who you talk to, and more detailed primary information to not only track you but to sell information about you.

These other companies listed appear to be just sycophants that have virally attached themselves.

Here Is the Meat of the Opt-In/Out-Out Discussion in Telecom: CPNI.

Verizon puts this notice in the back of their bills, even for FiOS. To paraphrase: We are taking and using your information.

And notice that when you are sent to see the ‘complete listing’ of companies you are sent to Verizon.com, the generic front page of the site. The company can’t even bother to give you the proper URL.

You can opt out if you call them, but who reads the last page of their bill?

But, it gets sleazier by the minute. Take the separate policy statement for Verizon’s Go90 services. It collects where you go as well as ‘your contacts’.

“Information we collect
We collect information you provide (for example, your email and age) as well as information about your device and your use of the go90 services. This includes content you view, cuts you create and share, your comments and your favorites. When you allow it, go90 collects information about your device location and your contacts. Go90 also collects information from your device including your mobile number, device identifiers, device type and operating system”

And then it can be used and shared with ‘third parties’ and the data combined with “non-Verizon sites and service”.

“Information shared
“Go90 is supported by advertisements, so most go90 features are provided without charge. We use information you provide and information collected through your use of go90 to deliver more relevant ads. We may combine this data with data from other Verizon affiliates including AOL or third-parties in deciding which ads to serve you in go90. We also may use information collected from go90 for other purposes described in the Verizon and AOL privacy policies. For example, we may share information that you provide, the interests you show and your uses of the app within the Verizon family of companies for relevant advertisements in the go90 app and in other places, including non-Verizon sites and service.”

I.e., We can do whatever we want with the data and we can use it for lots of other services that have nothing to do with your phone service or even broadband service.

Where’s the full list of companies? Are they sharing it with The Huffington Post, AOL, etc? What about their partners, such as Hearst? Of course.

It even applies to ‘website’ visitors. And the ‘family of companies’ is a mob. After searching, you can find the family of companies, but it is not a full list but more like a travelogue with timeline of press releases.

“This policy applies to website visitors, app users and Verizon customers in the United States. It applies across the Verizon family of companies and the products and services they provide. The Verizon family of companies includes the companies and joint ventures controlled by Verizon, including the Verizon telephone companies, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, XO Communications, Verizon Wireless, AOL, MapQuest and Verizon Online.”

This is from AOL’s Privacy Policy: So, if you have any Verizon service and you haven’t opted-out, they’ll track you, spy on you, see what you buy, see what web sites you visit, combine it with other information and then even sell that information, which is something that they don’t really focus on.

Verizon is Violating Every Net Neutrality Principle: Collusion 101.

Since Verizon is the ‘ISP’ and the phone company and the wireless company and the broadband company and in this case, they are even the cable company, and then they combine this with all the tracking and ad-ware -- Verizon is violating every Net Neutrality principle. They are NOT acting as a ‘common carrier’, and they are doing all of this in ‘stealth’ mode—which benefits their own affiliates over everyone else. And this is something you probably never agreed to when you signed up for phone service.

Also, remember the companies we found in the browser and the cookies that were from companies unknown? How many of these “cookies, web beacons, and other technologies” does Verizon/AOL, etc. control? Where does Verizon Precision Marketing – another member of this mob family, fit into all of this?

And since the customer is “opted-in”, even if they had no idea about it, Verizon is actually making money from the customers’ info, which it sells. (It’s just slightly harder to make money if the customer ‘opts-out’ because Verizon probably is or has deals with some/many of those ad-tracking sycophants.)

Does anyone call this “ethical”?

I’d argue, reading through the privacy info, that Verizon is violating basic laws.

  • There is no list of all of the companies that it is playing with and sharing the customers’ data.
  • There is no listing of the cookies or whether they have put cookies in the customer’s browser –without ‘conscious consent’ of the customer.
  • There is no upfront declaration that they are selling all of this information to hundreds of companies.
  • Or that they are colluding with their mob family to track and spy on the customer.
  • Verizon’s services, which are Title II, are giving Verizon own affiliates, third parties, etc. preferential treatment on every level of this grotesque landscape.

In short, Verizon never makes clear the extent, size and scope of how the company has violated a customer’s privacy or the money it makes off the customer.

Going Online Is a Conference Call with an Uninvited Mob.

Finally, we will be releasing a new series of reports in the next few weeks. What should piss everyone off is that Verizon and its family of companies, third party-this-and-thats are ALL working simultaneously so at any one time there are 50-100 companies and services spying, tracking, ad-teching, analyzing you, especially when you go to a web site.

Below is a rather shocking partial list of the swarm of companies, services and tracking that is part of the AOL home page, February 27th, 2017. Tied to the ‘browser’ sycophants, and the beacons, ad-tech, and CPNI information of a user, we ask:

Where are the investigations into the invasion of privacy and Digital Stalking, and who the hell are all of these companies?

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