I couldn't really find this answer anywhere. If an ISP was to record every browsing, call and text we make/send, would it be expensive for them log and store this? Assume an ISP has 4 million devices accessing the internet.

Where I live it's not lawful for an ISP or telecom company to store anything.

  • What kind of ISP? A small ISP using mostly copper will find this quite difficult to do simply for bandwidth reasons. A larger ISP using fiber optics could use a very simple prism device to split the data and send it to a storage facility. – forest May 11 '19 at 2:03

This question is highly subjective.

  • It depends on what you consider expensive.
  • It also depends on what exactly they are required to log.

If they just log texts, call times, and internet connection logs ... that is relatively trivial.

If they have to record full phone conversations and all internet traffic packets ... it could be come very expensive ... but they would just pass it off as part of the billing for there service.

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  • 2
    It's also a question of retention. If they only keep logs for an hour that's going to be much more feasible than keeping a month worth of logs. – Daisetsu May 10 '19 at 18:49

Storing it is fairly cheap:

  • Voice can be approximated to 64kbps (mono, OK quality). If the four million devices spends one hour on the phone on average, that works out to 107TB a day. Expensive, but certainly feasible.
  • Text messages are 160B a pop. Include metadata such as timestamp, recipient and sender, call it 300B. At 100 text messages per customer, that's 11GB a day. This is trivial. You could even store a years worth on a home budget.
    • Browsing -lets say 500B per request. A webpage is easily 50 requests, and let's assume a customer does 500 web pages per day. That's 93GB, or 33TB a year.

All of these is of course Fermi estimates, and give a rather generous quota for use. Turns out, storing voice in good quality is the only thing that's expensive. The rest is dirt cheap to store. If you reduce voice to 10kb/s, which is enough for mono voice in low quality, you shrink that to 16TB a day.

So in terms of cost, it's feasible. It would probably impact the profits of the ISP quite significantly.

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