Feeds

Congress quizzes world+dog over data pimping

Phorm letter

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

US Congressman Ed Markey and his anti-data-pimping brigade are back on the warpath.

On Friday, the chairman of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee joined three other high-ranking US lawmakers in lobbing an open letter at thirty American ISPs, asking each if they've ever used customer browsing activity as a means of targeting online ads.

"Has your company at any time tailored, or facilitated the tailoring of, Internet advertising based on customers' internet search, surfing, or other use?" asked the letter, signed by John Dingell (chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce), Joe Barton (ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce), and Cliff Stearns (ranking member of the Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee).

Yes, they wanna know if anyone else is pimping customer data to Phorm, NebuAd, Front Porch, AdZilla, or some other third-party behavioral ad targeter. But they also wanna know how ad targeting is handled by the giants of the web. In addition to those thirty ISPs - including AOL, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon - Markey and crew fired copies of their letter at Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!.

Ed Markey and Joe Barton launched their anti-data-pimping fight back in May, after Charter Communications - America's eighth largest ISP - told the world it was testing technology from NebuAd. In an effort to target online ads, NebuAd's deep packet inspection hardware tracks the search and browsing activity of web surfers from inside an ISP's network. And since it fails to require an opt-in, it may run afoul of the US Communications Act of 1934, the Cable Act of 1984, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and other wiretapping-related US statutes.

Markey and Barton asked Charter to bag its tests while they looked into the matter. And they soon asked the rest of the country's ISPs to halt any other data pimping experiments. Charter complied, as did several others, and in mid July, Markey oversaw a Congressional hearing in which he accused NebuAd CEO Bob Dykes of "beating" the American consumer.

But it's unclear exactly how many American ISPs have pimped data to the likes of NebuAd. Some admit the practice - including WideOpenWest, CenturyTel, Knology, Bresnan Communications, and Embarq - but most of the big-name ISPs have kept quiet.

AT&T has denied using Phorm. But that's about it.

With Friday's letter, the Markey brigade asks AT&T et al many of the same data pimping questions it asked Embarq last month. The Kansas-based ISP eventually came clean. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's iPhone 6 first-day sales are MEANINGLESS, mutters analyst
Big weekend queues only represent fruity firm's supply
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes
'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.