Sunday, August 17, 2008

U.S. Network Operators Deny DPI-based Advertising Tracking

Leading U.S. network operators have mostly denied using deep packet inspection (DPI) technologies for the purpose of behavioral advertising tracking of individual U.S. consumers. The U.S. House of Representative's Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, led by Reps. John D. Dingell (D-MI) and Joe Barton (R-TX), launched the inquiry earlier this month to address privacy concerns raised by the data collection practices of Internet network operators who tailor Internet advertising based on a consumer's Web surfing activity.

Written responses were received from AOL, AT&T, Bresnan Communications, Bright House Networks, Cable One, Cablevision Systems Corporation, cBeyond, CenturyTel, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, Covad Communications, Cox Communications, Earthlink, Frontier Communications, Google, Insight Communications, Knology, Level 3 Communications, Mediacom Communications, PAETEC, Qwest Communications, RCN Communications, Suddenlink Communications, TDS Telecom, Time Warner Cable, TW Telecom, Inc., United Online, Verizon, Windstream, WOW! Internet, Cable and Phone, XO Communications and Yahoo . The written testimony is posted online.

Here are some highlights:

  • AOL stated that it does not employ "deep packet inspection" advertising technology. However, it does provide targeted advertising across its Internet sites. This advertising is matched to users who personally sign-in to AOL's web services. The company said it offers its users a variety of privacy choices and marketing preferences.

  • AT&T stated categorically that it does not engage in behavioral advertising tracking, either as a trial or for its commercial operations.

  • CenturyTel confirmed that it conducted a one-time trial of NebuAd's customer preference marketing (also known as contextual or behavioral advertising). NebuAd's CPM equipment was installed at an aggregated POP in Montana. The trial ran from November 2007 to June 2008. Traffic from about 20,000 users was included.

  • Comcast stated that it does not collect customer data for targeted advertising, nor does it correlate data regarding its High-speed Internet customer use across services or applications.

  • Google stated that it does not deliver advertising based on deep-packet inspection. Google also said it supports the adoption of a comprehensive federal privacy law that would accomplish several goals such as building consumer trust and protections; creating a uniform framework for privacy, which would create consistent levels of privacy from one jurisdiction to another; and putting penalties in place to punish and dissuade bad actors.

  • >Verizon stated that it does not tailor online advertising based on information gather from its users' Internet searches or general Internet searching. Instead, Verizon uses cookies and/or ad deliver servers to provide advertisements for users of Verizon's own web sites. The company also offers a web-ad supported "DNS-Assist" service to help users find the web sites they are looking for when they enter an invalid URL.

See also