During Congressional hearings about Facebook’s data practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, Mark Zuckerberg drew an important distinction between what we expect from our Internet service providers (ISPs, such as Comcast or Verizon) as opposed to platforms like Facebook that operate over the Internet.
Put simply, an ISP is a service you pay to access the Internet. Once you get online, you run into a whole series of edge providers. Some, like Netflix, also charge you for access to their services. Others, like Facebook and Google, are platforms that you use without paying, which support themselves using ads. There’s a whole spectrum of services that make up Internet use, but the thing they all have in common is that they are gathering data when you use them. How they use it can differ widely.