Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Charter tracking web surfing habits

Two recent articles about Charter Communications, recently reported that the company will monitor customers' web surfing habits. The second article discusses the two congressmen who are trying to stop Charter from tracking the surfing habits of their customers.

Charter is the third-largest publicly traded cable operator in the U.S., operating in 29 states. Charter wanted to test this concept in four market areas: Fort Worth, TX; San Luis Obispo, CA; Oxford, MA.; and Newtown, CT. and sent out letters to hundresds of thousands of customers telling them this program will begin in 30 days....before a final desicion is made about using this on all 2.8 million Internet customers.

This data will be sent to NebuAd, which will then cross-reference the surfing habits and send advertisements that would be of interest to the user. This term is called "behavioral targeting," and it is a major privacy threat. I suppose the letters that the customers received made it alright to pry in on their personal lives and invade their internet privacy. Of course, the users can opt out but they have to go out of their way and manually do it...which takes us back to a previous blog post from Friday regarding who you can trust with your Internet privacy. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Users should manually choose to accept this test program...

Charter will need to follow their users around somehow, and it will have to be with an IP address. Is it really enhancing my Internet experience to be tracked all over the Internet, and then having it pushed back in my face in the form of Internet advertising? I don't see it that way. I see it as having to go out and find a good proxy server to protect myself while surfing the internet.

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