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FTC launches probe into privacy practices at big internet providers

  • The FTC is widening its inquiries into the privacy practices at big tech players to include internet service providers.
  • It's asking companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast for information about how they use consumer data.
  • The agency says these companies have evolved into "vertically integrated platforms that also provide advertising support content."

The Federal Trade Commission is putting large internet providers including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and T-Mobile under new scrutiny. The companies will have to detail how they collect and use consumer information as the FTC seeks to widen the scope of its inquiries into privacy practices at tech players beyond online platforms like Facebook and Google.

Noting its ability to enforce against unfair and deceptive practices involving ISPs, the FTC on Tuesday said it wants to study the privacy practices at the companies that have evolved into "vertically integrated platforms that also provide advertising support content." It's seeking information on how long consumer information is kept, whether it's shared with third parties, how much consumers are told and whether they're given the chance to opt out of data collection.

Challenges for Facebook a year after Cambridge Analytica scandal

The potential for conflict has been highlighted by a year of controversy at Facebook, as the social media giant struggles to show it protects users' privacy even as its profits rely on selling user access to advertisers. And Google last week was fined nearly $1.7 billion by European regulators who found the search engine took advantage of its dominant role in online advertising at the expense of consumers and other businesses.

Orders for information were also sent to AT&T Mobility, Google Fiber and Verizon Wireless, according to the FTC.