Broadband ISPs are in the same game as dial-up ISPs: providing customers the ability to access and share information. This is not a complicated issue. Hence, Lily Tomlin’s telephone operator Ernestine is not really part of the picture any more. She was a great lady, but like Manu Ginóbili of the San Antonio Spurs, she’s retired.
“Don’t collect what you can’t protect” seems like a reasonable approach. Given that the current discourse is all about collection, we probably won’t have the conversation we need to have for a long time. And in the meantime we’re going to hear nothing but nonsense about gatekeepers, “sensitive” browsing histories, and how hard it may be to switch ISPs (as if we don’t do that several times more often than we switch social networks and search providers.
Our web activity is tracked by “edge services” such as Google and Facebook even if we don’t go to their web sites. This is because they both operate tracking networks with the cooperation of web sites that carry their tracking code.
Yes. Does Google track you outside of google.com? Yes. Does Google share sensitive data about you with third parties it collects from sites like edmarkey.com and standtallforamerica.com? I don’t know that it does, but it’s entitled to by its privacy disclosures. And the same goes for a dozen other trackers unleashed on web users who visit these two sites.
As a technical matter, it is the case that the Internet is more like cable TV than the telephone network. While the Internet does support interpersonal communication, its primary role is publishing audio, video, pictures, and text. And like cable TV, it’s a platform in which advertising is a very important source of revenue.
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