SMEX recently conducted research to assess the transparency of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Lebanon. Upon gathering information regarding licensed service providers in Lebanon through the Ministry of Telecommunication, we found that there are 114 licensed ISPs in the country:

  • 39 ISPs have websites
  • 4 ISPs have a privacy policy on their website
  • 3 of them provide easy access to the Privacy Policy page
  • 4 ISPs have terms of service on their websites
  • 3 of them provide easy access to their Terms of Service page

The ISPs we rely on to provide internet connection in our offices and homes also have access to sensitive data. In addition to logging each URL you visit, they can also access your location, social media data, phone number, email addresses, and credit card information. Should this data fall into the hands of the wrong people, it could be detrimental to users safety, reputation, and finances.

In Lebanon, OGERO, a state-owned fixed internet service, provides internet connection to all ISPs in the country. OGERO neither displays a privacy policy on its website, nor sheds light on the use or management of users’ data. Users have the right to know how OGERO and other ISPs are using their information. Even the ISPs that do provide privacy policies are not fully transparent. For example, websites with privacy policies, which are only available in English, provide users with the policy only after they have signed a contract. The publicly displayed policies, on the other hand, apply exclusively to the website. Therefore, users cannot determine how the ISPs are gathering and selling user data neither before nor after signing up for their services.

Because none of the ISPs openly share their privacy policies and terms of service, we do not know how the ISPs store our data, nor can we determine who has access to it. In addition to abiding by local and international law, respecting privacy and free expression provides customers with more trust and confidence in tech companies’ services and allows the companies to obtain more investment, and identify additional opportunities for growth.

We demand that OGERO and the Lebanese ISPs provide comprehensive, publicly available privacy policies and terms of service.

Jad Fawaz is an intern at SMEX. His interests involve digital media, media literacy, and the societal implications of digital communications.

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