How Much Could Your ISP Know About You?

If you're not already wearing your tin-foil helmet you now have 10 seconds.

Ok your time is up.  Wired has sent out a few probing questions to bigger ISPs to see what kind of data they collect on their usage of their users and what it would take for them to turn that same information over to various 3rd parties..
"Wired News, with help from some readers, attempted to get real answers from the largest United States-based ISPs about what information they gather on their customers' use of the internet, and how long they retain records like IP addresses, e-mail and real-time browsing activity. Most importantly, we asked what they require from law-enforcement agencies before coughing up the data, and whether they sell your data to marketers.

Only four of the eight largest ISPs responded to the 10-question survey, despite being contacted repeatedly over the course of two months. Some ISPs wouldn't talk to us, but gave answers to customers responding to a call for reader help on Wired's Threat Level blog."
Sadly not all of the ISPs questioned chose to answer all of the questions that were asked.  Here's a list of who Wired chose to ask: AOL, AT&T, Cox Communications, COMCAST, Earthlink, QWEST, Verizon, and Time Warner.  Of course even when they did answer, it was sometimes evasive or not very specific.

There doesn't seem to be any specific mention of piracy or the war on terror in the article, but they do touch on child pornography and how long various ISPs might keep records of such things.

As for sharing information on customers browsing and shopping habits, things get a bit murky.  The problem here is that there is no real industry standard on exactly how this information should be striped of relevant customer indentifying data to be made anonymous but not worthless.  Obviously market researchers are willing to pay more money for more accurate data, and this could cause ISPs to walk a thin line between profit and the anonymity of their customers.

You might find it instructive to contact your own ISP and check what policies they have regarding the data they gather from your browsing and online shopping, who they turn it over to, and how it can be used.
Tags:  ISP, Kno, now, K