How broadband providers use and share your data

Broadband providers' privacy policies by broadbandlondon.comBroadband providers' privacy policies by broadbandlondon.com

Online privacy is becoming an increasingly more contentious issue which is rapidly reaching boiling point due to revelations about the NSA and GCHQ, and the Snoopers’ Charter which will surely come to fruition after Britain leaves the EU, possibly before.

More and more people are becoming concerned with online privacy and what companies do with your data. Broadband and mobile network providers are very much the focal point, as every click you make online regardless of your device is recorded. With this in mind let’s take a look at the privacy policies of the top three leading broadband suppliers in London.

BT Group

BT incorporates EE, and Plusnet in their London broadband provision services, so if you have signed up to EE or Plusnet, your information will probably be shared with the whole of the BT group. Each of the three entities, BT, Plusnet, and EE has its own privacy policy.

Broadly speaking the BT group privacy policies are the same. The EE privacy policy is more specific than the other two making it clear that they will pass on your data to debt collection agencies for example. The other two are more vague and general in their policies.

The Group shares your information between entities. This is for the purpose of group administration tasks such as compiling reports, fault diagnosis, and other support services.

They also state your information may well move outside of the EU, and that they may pass your information on to fraud and credit reference agencies. They will also pass on your data to any third party where you have given consent.

They are not very specific on how long they hold your data for, saying that they hold on to it as long as it was intended for, and to comply with legal requirements.

All state that from time to time will use your information to market products to you, and they will comply with authority requests from law enforcement agencies, courts, and public authorities, giving them access to your data.

Sky

Sky’s privacy policy is more forthright than the BT Group and it has to be said displayed in a much smaller font. It is implicit in stating that by using Sky Broadband you agree that they may retain your data and so can third party companies that Sky uses to processes it on their behalf. The latter is an interesting point, as what the processing company can do with your data is not specified in the privacy policy.

Furthermore, it is specific in saying that Sky is entitled to use your data in the following purposes:
“1. to monitor and improve the Site and our services;
2. market research, including statistical analysis of user behaviour which we may disclose to third parties in depersonalised, aggregated form;
3. in order to enable Us to comply with any requirements imposed on Us by law or court order; and
4. unless you have asked us not to, in order to send You periodic communications (this may be by post, telephone, SMS or e-mail), about features, products and services, events and special offers. Such communications from Us may carry advertising for third party companies or organisations.”

Sky gives one concession and that is you can opt out of point four.

All of the above applies to your Sky email account too.

Virgin

Virgin is a popular choice of broadband provider in London, second only to the BT Group and Sky. Their privacy policy is clearly laid out and easy to read and interpret. In terms of how it shares your information, it states clearly that it will not share information that can identify you as an individual. Neither Sky nor the BT Group state that implicitly. See below:

“Disclosing your information
Here’s when we may provide information about you:
• To employees and agents of Virgin Media to deal with any accounts, products and services provided to you by Virgin Media or our group companies now or in the future.
• With your agreement, to other Virgin companies (e.g. Virgin Atlantic), whose products and services may be of interest to you.
• To search the files of a credit reference agency, which will keep a record of that search, when you apply for service. Additionally, details of how you conduct your account may also be disclosed to the agency. This information may be used by other organisations in assessing applications from you and members of your household.
• We may use aggregate information and statistics for the purposes of monitoring usage of our services in order to help us develop our services, and may provide such aggregate information to third parties, for example, content partners and advertisers. These statistics do not include information that can be used to identify any individual.

We will not pass on your personal information to third parties except in accordance with this policy and our Terms and Conditions or where we are required to disclose that information in order to comply with any legal or regulatory requirements.”

None of the privacy policies talk about or go into detail on where your data is stored. It could be in the UK, Europe, America, or in countries outside of this. Although all three comply with UK Data Protection laws, how is this maintained if the data is stored outside of the EU? Neither privacy policy addressed these or similar issues.

With privacy being an issue which more and more of us are becoming concerned, how our broadband suppliers use it will shape our buying choices in 2017.

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