Feeds

Charter suspends NebuAd data-pimping experiment

Squeaky wheels kill pilot - for now

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

Charter Communications has suspended plans to deploy NebuAd's web usage tracking technology following howls of protest from critics who say that practice seriously compromised the privacy of subscribers.

Charter, which is the biggest US-based internet service provider to test the NebuAd system, abruptly changed course on Tuesday, following scrutiny from Congressmen and at least one state law enforcer. Last month, Charter had said it would begin tracking the web usage of subscribers in four test markets so it could deliver targeted ads to them.

Both Charter and NebuAd insist the subscribers are never personally identified. But government overseers aren't so sure. Among them is Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who released a letter Tuesday calling on Charter to drop the pilot.

"The arrangement raises strikingly significant questions, such as what other uses will be made of this highly sensitive information and what measures Charter Communications is taking to safeguard such information," the letter read. Privacy advocates on Capitol Hill also weighed in last month. Democratic Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas, wrote Charter President Neil Smit and asked him to put the trial on hold.

No fewer than 15 privacy watchdogs have also weighed in on Charter's plan. Some of them have likened NebuAd to so-called man-in-the-middle intruders who use cross-site scripting attacks to hijack browser sessions.

The month of unfavorable attention was more than Charter's public relations ministers could handle.

"Our customers are always our first priority," they said in announcing the suspension. "We will continue to take a thoughtful, deliberate approach with the goal to ultimately structure an advertising service that enhances the internet experience for our customers and addresses questions and concerns they've raised."

Both Charter and NebuAd have portrayed the suspension as temporary, but so far neither side is saying when they think Charter might resume the experiment. NebuAd has said it is working with other ISPs in the US and that by the end of the year it will be monitoring the web surfing of 10 percent on internet users in this country. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee
But there's a flaw in Google's IP-based IoT system
Orange spent weekend spamming customers with TXTs
Zero, not infinity, is the Magic Number customers want
Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN
Exec finds stream speed climbs when smuggled out
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
NBN Co execs: No FTTN product until 2015
Faster? Not yet. Cheaper? No data
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.