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Broadband Indiscretions

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Andy Greenberg
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Someone may be tracking your every move on the Internet–from the moment you connect to the Web through an internet service provider. Now privacy advocates are crying foul, and Congress seems to be listening.

At the center of a growing privacy storm has been Redwood City, Calif.-based NebuAd, which partners with Internet service providers (ISPs) so that it can analyze data about subscribers’ online habits to better target ads.

This may become a rich data vein in the $45 billion online advertising goldrush, but privacy advocates say it’s simply too deceptive. Most consumers, they contend, don’t realize that just connecting to their Internet service generates a stream of data about their habits and preferences.

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On Wednesday, the Senate’s Commerce Committee will put NebuAd’s use of Internet provider information for ad targeting under scrutiny. U.S. Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, have already called for ISPs to break off dealing with NebuAd.

So far, three ISPs–Charter Communications, CenturyTel Inc.  and Wide Open West–have suspended their use of the company’s services. Executives from Microsoft, Google and Facebook will also face questions from the senators on their online ad practices.

Privacy advocates will be on hand too. Following criticism of NebuAd from groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology released a memo on Tuesday calling NebuAd’s practices a violation of the Federal Wiretap Act.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 12:35 pm

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