The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the American equivalent of the French competition authorities, has just published a new study against internet service providers. It consists of seventy-four pages, and explains how companies such as Bouygues Télécom, Orange or SFR collect personal data from their customers’ smartphones.
Thus, while one could naively think that these firms are remunerated only by the provision of their network coverage, the stakes are quite different. The operators have their own advertising network, capable of providing precise analytical information to advertisers. According to other findings, the blocking of inter-application tracking proposed by iOS 15 would also be ineffective against these questionable practices.
Among the reasons for this “espionage” as a rule, we can above all cite the interest of its managers in promoting their own products. In the United States, companies such as Verizon or AT&T would thus benefit from the profiling of their users to propose them offers by e-mail or even directly in their mailbox. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Indeed, this strategy becomes more difficult when your robot carrier is then sent to third parties. Other groups who, unlike ordinary consumers, spend millions on their advertising and marketing needs. This is how we then find ourselves faced with reductions for their favorite products, sponsored by their publishers or manufacturers, without having been directly exposed to them beforehand. The diagram below describes this operating mode very well:
How to fight?
Neither private browsing nor the use of a classic mobile antivirus and anti-adware can protect against this behavioral tracking. However, it seems that installing a VPN (virtual private network) is a rather effective solution. Indeed, the mass of Internet users who do not use it is so large that it is more than enough to satisfy the developers, most of whom then do not look further than the first IP address encountered.
Among the tools of this type, the Private Relay feature available with an iCloud + plan is a benchmark on iPhone. This has, however, been seriously criticized in the past: good to know.