Compete CEO: ISPs Sell Clickstreams For $5 A Month

Mar. 13, 2007 9:44 AM ET3 Comments
Henry Blodget profile picture
Henry Blodget

At the Open Data 2007 conference in New York today, David Cancel, the CEO of Compete Inc. revealed that ISPs happily sell clickstream data -- and that it's a big business. They don't sell your name -- just your clicks -- but the clicks are tied to you as a specific user (User 1, User 2, etc.).

How much are your clicks worth? About 40 cents a month per user (per customer)... and the Compete CEO estimates that there are 10-12 big buyers of this data. In other words, your ISP is probably making about $5 a month ($60 a year) off your clickstreams.

Someone points out that this is just as bad as the AOL search thing. "It's much worse!" David says -- his excited eyes indicating that he's a happy customer. Someone else observes that "worse" is in the eye of the beholder: for the ISPs it's awesome.

David steps down. Thunderous applause.

# # #

The Open Data morning session ended with a general consensus that consumers would be surprised and outraged by the amount of online data that is being collected, stored, and sold--and that sooner or later some smart journalist will pretend to discover this secret and trigger a consumer firestorm.

Most attendees agreed that consumers are happy to trade privacy for convenience and that, ultimately, if they like the product, they'll say "whatever" about the data collection. Most people also agreed, however, that to get to "whatever," consumers have to know that everything they do is tracked, analyzed, and sold--and that the last time anyone read a User License Agreement was 1972. So the industry has to figure out some way to get the story to consumers before some journalist does. Because the latter will lead to Congressional hearings, new bureaucracy, and higher legal, compliance, and PR bills... and who wants that?

This article was written by

Henry Blodget profile picture
Henry Blodget is the CEO, Co-Founder, and Editor in Chief of Silicon Alley Insider ( Prior to co-founding Silicon Alley Insider, Henry served as CEO of Cherry Hill Research, a research and consulting firm, and contributed to Slate, Newsweek International, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes Online, Business 2.0, Euromoney, New York, Financial Times, and other publications. He edits an award-winning blog, Internet Outsider (, and is the author of The Wall Street Self-Defense Manual: A Consumer's Guide to Investing. He has been a frequent guest on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. From 1994-2001, Henry worked in corporate finance and equity research at Prudential Securities, Oppenheimer & Co., and Merrill Lynch. He ran Merrill's global Internet research practice and was ranked the No. 1 Internet and eCommerce analyst on Wall Street by Institutional Investor and Greenwich Associates. He was later keelhauled by then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in a wide-ranging complaint about conflicts of interest between the research and banking divisions of brokerage firms (for details, please see Henry went to Yale. He was born and raised in New York. Visit Silicon Alley Insider ( Visit his blog, Internet Outsider (

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