Charter Communications and Behavioral Targeting

Charter communications, an internet service provider (ISP), announced this week that it will share it’s customers web browsing data with NebuAd, to show ads based on customer’s web browsing behavior.

(Note: I wrote about the ISP based behavioral targeting, NebuAd and privacy issues related to ISP based behavioral targeting in my previous blog posts).

Charter communication sent a letter to its subscribers in Fort Worth, Texas, San Luis Obispo, California, Oxford, Massachusetts and Newtown, Connecticut telling them it will collect their web surfing data and use to show ads related to their interests. Charter said it will start testing the system within 30 days and will make a decision whether to introduce it to its 2.8 million Internet customers a few months after that.

One big issue I see with Charter’s Behavioral Targeting is that they are automatically opting in the users. Even though they have sent the letters to customers how many their customers will actually read those letters?
As I have written in past, companies need to build trust with consumers, show them the value in behavioral targeting and then use an opt-in system. Charter is clearly taking the route that other companies have taken which, in my opion, will raise huge privacy concerns.

If anybody who doesn’t want to be tracked will need to explicitly opt-out of the system by providing their name, address etc. The opt-out uses a cookie, so if a consumer deletes a cookie or buys a new computer or uses a computer other than the one which has cookie then he/she will be automatically tracked. What I did not understand was, why do consumers need to provide their name, address etc to opt-out if it is just relying on a cookie. Can anybody from Charter please clarify this?

In march, I wrote about British Telco, coming under fire for engaging in Behavioral Targeting; let’s see what kind of repercussion we see with Charter communication.

One Reply to “Charter Communications and Behavioral Targeting”

  1. I complained through several channels to Charter about the snooping expressing my plans to drop their cable and internet service. I received a phone call from a Charter PR person within 10 minutes of emailing Ted Schremp, Charter’s senior vice president of product management and strategy. The rep spent 10 minutes trying to explain that Charter isn’t tracking my information, just enhancing my experience. How can I get a company like Charter to back off. They hold all the power when there are only a few high speed alternatives in my area.

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