Broadband Users' Activities To Be Monitored

Dennis Faas's picture

Charter Communications, the fourth largest Internet Service Providers in the United States, has reportedly begun telling some of its 2.7 million broadband users that they'll be monitoring every web site they visit to help web advertisers deliver targeted ads.

The web-tracking program, dubbed an "enhancement" by Charter, is a pilot program set to begin next month and it appears to be similar to a targeted advertising system in the U.K. developed by Phorm, a London company alleged to have spyware roots.

Charter plans to test its program in four markets: Ft. Worth, Texas; San Luis Obispo, California; Oxford, Massachusetts; and Newton, Connecticut.

Charter is partnering with a company called NebuAD to build profiles of its users. NebuAD will share the behavorial tracking results with third-party advertising networks.

Users will be able to opt-out of the system, but have to give their full name and address to get an opt-out cookie. If you use several browsers, you'll have to opt-out for each one. If you delete your cookies on a regular basis, the opt-out process will have to be repeated.

Charter will know every URL its customers visit, but says it will not be tracking personal information, such as medical websites. Charter doesn't know how long surfing histories were stored by NebuAD, but it is stored long enough that the company's profile of customers can learn and evolve over time.

This program will effectively turn Charter into the ultimate third-party tracking network. Charter is attempting to increase revenue, but behavorial targeting does raise several security and privacy concerns.

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