Which Internet Providers Are Watching You Surf The Internet?

Dennis Faas's picture

It's one of the first rules of Internet 101: visiting questionable websites leads to viruses, which entices hackers to access your hard drive and monitor your every click. But can someone still be monitoring your web activity even if you're extra careful when selecting online destinations? The answer may just depend on which Internet provider you use.

A few months ago, The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent out an open letter to 33 companies inquiring about their online targeting practices, or in other words, the extent to which the web activity of their customers is being monitored.

The letter was sent amidst reports that several Internet service providers, including Charter Communications, were planning to sell the web-surfing data of their customers to an online advertising company called NebuAd. (Source: nytimes.com)

The responses to the letter showed that most ISPs, including Comcast, Verizon and AOL, never monitor the web activity of their customers. Some, however, do have targeting systems in place to monitor the online behavior of their customers when logged on to their own web sites.

AT&T was the only company to give "careful consideration" to monitoring the web activity of their customers on ALL web sites.

Although it seems like a dirty trick to pull on their customers, AT&T promise that their approach will not be so deceptive. The company is promoting an "opt-in" approach to web tracking, which will require customers to affirmatively agree to have their surfing monitored. (Source: arcane.org)

In the past, most companies favored an "opt-out" approach to web tracking, which required customers to decline being monitored. Those who failed to refuse monitoring were assumed to be compliant with the system.

Most people agree that the best thing AT&T can do in this situation is to leave the Internet experience to their customer's eyes only.

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