Reps. Urge Charter Not to Share Subscriber Info

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Leaders Write Charter Communications President Neil Smit About Cable Operator’s Plans to Team Up with Online Targeted Marketer NebuAd

The leadership, Republican and Democrat, of the House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee wrote Charter Communications expressing their "serious concern" about reports that the company plans to track Web-site visits by its Internet customers and share that information with an ad firm, asking it to hold off on those plans for now.

Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) told Charter president Neil Smit in a letter dated Friday that such a deal could have privacy implications. They told Smit not to pursue a venture with online targeted marketer NebuAd until the legislators have had a chance to talk with him.

NebuAd has been pitching Internet-service providers with the following: "To date, the role of service providers (ISPs) has been limited to enabling, but not participating in, the online-advertising-revenue ecosystem. NebuAd creates a greater market opportunity for the entire online-advertising ecosystem."

"Any service to which a subscriber does not affirmatively subscribe and that can result in the collection of information about the Web-related habits and interests of a subscriber, or a subscriber’s use of the operator’s services, or the identification of an individual subscriber, and archives any of these results without the ‘prior written or electronic consent of the subscriber,’ raises substantial questions," Markey and Barton wrote.

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, which asked Markey to investigate the reports of Charter’s ad play, applauded the move. "Charter's plans violate the spirit and, likely, the letter of the privacy provisions Chairman Markey inserted in the 1984 Cable Act,” Chester said.

A Charter spokesman had not returned a call at press time.


Markey: Wait on Online-Ad-Service Technology

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman told cable operators, other broadband providers to hold off implementing ad-service technology similar to what Charter Communications was planning to use from NebuAd.