Public Interest and Privacy Groups Call on Congress to Investigate the Use of New Technology that Discloses Private and Personal Internet Activity without Notice to Consumers
For Immediate Release
Brock N. Meeks
Center for Democracy and Technology
202-637-9800 x 114
Washington - Fifteen of the nation's leading privacy and public interest groups today released a letter urging Congress to hold hearings on the growing practice of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) targeting ads to subscribers based on their personal Web activities.
The letter, sent to House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) and Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX), urges the congressmen to investigate the plan of Charter Communications to capture all of the messages and activities of its Internet subscribers and share that data with NebuAd, a third-party firm, which plans to use the data to target consumers with specific ads. Representatives Markey and Barton have previously raised questions regarding the legality of the Charter Communications plan.
â€œThe eavesdropping and targeting of consumers online by their cable and phone ISPs creates a major new privacy threat,â€? said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. â€œCongress must swiftly act to protect the public - including families - from this unwarranted invasion of their privacy.â€?
The 15 groups are urging Congress to hold public hearings looking into the practice of sharing data on private activities, noting that other ISP's are also signing similar deals with third-party firms.
â€œCongress needs to bring this practice under closer scrutiny,â€? said Ari Schwartz, vice president of the Center for Democracy & Technology. â€œTragically, there is little oversight or accountability of these activities and Congress needs to weigh in now before the practice becomes standard operating procedure for the ISPs.â€?
This privacy invasion is enabled by a technology called â€œDeep Packet Inspection,â€? which allows an ISP to grab all the information coming out of a user's computer before it hits the Internet. This private and personal information is then turned over to the ISP's business partner, usually a third-party firm, which then logs the subscriber information, categorizes it, and delivers ads to the consumer based on a customized profile, gleaned from the information snared by the ISP.
Technology that collects and uses this level of personal and private data without any opportunity for the consumer to opt out is unacceptable. Consumers must be made aware of the practice and allowed to choose for themselves whether releasing personal information is an acceptable trade-off for receiving targeted advertising.
List of Groups Signed On:
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- Center for Digital Democracy
- Consumer Action
- Consumer Federation of America
- Consumers Union
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Electronic Privacy Information Center
- Free Press
- Media Access Project
- Privacy Activism
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- Public Knowledge
- US Public Interest Research Group
- World Privacy Forum
- Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic