Congress spotlights another American data pimper
Barks at Embarq
Congressman Ed Markey - chair of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet - has called out another American ISP for pimping user data to NebuAd, the Phorm-like behavioral ad targeter.
Yesterday, Markey and fellow Congressional big-wigs John D. Dingell (chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce) and Joe Barton (ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce) lobbed an open letter at the Kansas-based Embarq Corporation, questioning the NebuAd tests it ran this spring.
"Surreptitiously tracking individual users' Internet activity cuts to the heart of consumer privacy," reads a canned statement from Congressman Markey. "The information collected through NebuAd's technology can be highly personal and sensitive information. Embarq's apparent use of this technology without directly notifying affected customers that their activity was being tracked, collected, and analyzed raises serious privacy red flags."
When we asked Embarq about the missive, this was all it said: "We have received the letter from Reps. Markey, Barton and Dingell and are reviewing it for an appropriate response." Earlier this month, the company told us it does not have a contract with NebuAd and is not pimping data to any other behavioral ad targeter.
With their open letter, the Congressmen toss nine pointed questions at the Sprint-spin-off, hoping to understand how those NebuAd trials were conducted. Embarq has not said where the trials took place or how many users were affected.
Markey and crew can't help but wonder whether those trials ran afoul of the Communications Act of 1934, the Cable Act of 1984, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and other wiretapping-related US statutes. In May, Markey and Barton sent a similar letter to the midwestern ISP Charter Communications, and early tomorrow morning, Markey's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet will convene for a hearing entitled "What Your Broadband Provider Knows About Your Web Use: Deep Packet Inspection and Communications Laws and Policies."
As the subcommittee investigates, Markey has urged all American ISPs to at least put their data pimping plans on hold. And many have complied, including Charter, CenturyTel, Bresnan Communications, Massillon Cable TV, and WOW!. ®
Congress is mad about data surveillance - yeah right!
Congress just (last week) passed a law allowing the telecoms immunity from being sued for turning over communications records of their customers directly to the CIA and FBI without having a FISC summons. From now on the American Govt, rulers of the *Land of the Free* mind you, can feel free to request communications from any telephone/email/internet conversation where at least one party is suspected of being outside the USA. Who gives a shit if some piss poor little company like Phorm or NebuAd is serving adds to you when big brother is breathing down your neck!
That's like being scared of the dog in front of you when there is a hungry bear coming up behind you!
Mind you, what better way to get complete control of your worker bees than to threaten them with "terrorists" and then tell them you need to use surveillance to ensure their safety. How easy would it be to ensure you have more power than anyone else when you can tap everyone Else's communication unchecked?
Another depressing thought - there were only five comments made on this story! Already, even the educated thoughtful sector (readers of El Reg) of the public are not overly concerned with surveillance. El Reg - the next time you publish some story like this one, just flick the 'no comments' switch for the story - it will save us all a bunch of time. It would be nice if you would publish a story declaring privacy, freedom and liberty dead. I imagine a nice bit of sarcasm on that topic might make for a good read.
I've suddenly had an interesting business idea. What with the UK government's enthusiasm with all things corporate, and the fact that it is comfortable with letting commercial entities handle very sensitive data, why don't people like Phorm pitch this to the government as a surveillance facility first, and arrange a nice PFI scheme whereby they get to use 'excess' spying capacity to target adverts?
I've no doubt the government would lap it up.
Reading between the Lines tells the Tales and Sets the Scene,
.... but Never Forever as Whenever Recorded in Stone.
Of course, it is also the case, that these Phishermen can also be Pharmed to Provide Third Party Proxies with All of their Earthly Needs and Feeds to Feed the Needs and Feeds of Phishermen who would Steer A.N.Other Course.
Such Pharmers of Phishermen are QuITe Rare and RAIR [Recent Advanced IntelAIgents Research]