ISPs Still Ducking Clickstream Questions

    April 11, 2007

The issue of data privacy has long been one of intense debate and speculation across the blogosphere. Reports have surfaced here and there of ISPs selling clickstream data to third party advertisers for mere cents per user. As journalists continue seeking answers, the ISPs are remaining conspicuously tight-lipped about their data practices.

At last month’s Open Data Conference, 1938 Media’s Loren Feldman found out a juicy bit of information about what Comcast does with its user’s clickstreams. According to his sources at the conference, Comcast sells that data to third parties starting at around forty cents per user.

Comcast has yet to make any sort of official statement regarding its data practices or handling of clickstreams.

A group at Wired magazine has taken it upon themselves to survey the major ISPs in an attempt to gather comprehensive information on how these companies protect (or profit from) user data. Thus far, inquiries have been met with little sincerity. The Wired blog speculates on why ISPs could be compelled to be less than forthcoming:

I’ve heard from one well-connected person that ISPs are wary of these questions because for the last 9 months or so, they’ve been fighting a lonely battle against the Justice Department, which wants ISPs and companies like Google to hang onto information longer. But now that they aren’t facing that pressure given that Attorney General Gonzales is fighting for his political life, they just don’t want to talk about it.

As the Internet transitions from information to participation, your clickstream will evolve to contain a greater measure of personal information about your surfing trends, product preferences, and whatever else marketers can use to target you with contextually relevant advertising.

Let this serve as your official warning; your ISPs are more than likely selling every byte of your data that they can get their hands on.