Online advertising network NebuAd defended its service Wednesday after Free Press and Public Knowledge released a report, "NebuAd and Partner ISPs: Wiretapping, Forgery and Browser Hijacking," that charged the company was "intercepting and altering computer codes."
The company is partnered with various ISP's, including cable operators.
The study is from Robert Topolski, the same network engineer and consultant to Free Press and Public Knowledge who alleged that Comcast was "throttling" BitTorrent applications.
NebuAd countered in a statement that the report was inaccurate, mischaracterized its consumer privacy standards and said it does not modify any publisher codes. "Transparency and consumer privacy protection are core to our business. Reasonable review of materials that have been made available online would have educated the organization that NebuAd requires its ISP partners to provide robust notice to their subscribers prior to deployment of the service," the company said.
Labeling the practice "Internet wiretapping," Topolski's report alleged that NebuAd injected hidden codes that help build a profile of the user through "secretly collected information."
"By changing the computer code for Web sites to insert information into the packets of data sent to consumers," the report said, "NebuAd and its ISP partners violate several fundamental expectations of Internet privacy, security, and standards-based interoperability."
While NebuAd acknowledges it places cookies on users machines, it says that is the same for most online ad networks and points out that users can opt out. "NebuAd cookies do not contain specific information about a user," the company said. "All ad networks use a small piece of code that is temporary and operates only within the security framework of the browser to invoke the placement of ad network cookies. The code NebuAd uses is no different, and is clearly demarcated outside of and does not modify any publisher code."
The online advertising issue has gotten traction in Washington. NebuAd's planned partnership with Charter, since put on hold, has drawn fire from Capitol Hill. A hearing on online advertising and privacy was postponed this week, but more are planned.