After telling the world it will soon pimp customer data to NebuAd – a behavioral ad targeting firm along the lines of Phorm and Front Porch – Charter Communications has received a letter from Congress questioning the legality of such pimping.
As we reported yesterday, Charter – America’s eighth largest ISP – plans to test NebuAd within the next 30 days. In San Luis Obispo, California, Fort Worth, Texas, Oxford, Massachusetts, and Newtown, Connecticut, NebuAd’s deep packet inspection hardware will track the search and browsing history of “a couple hundred” Charter customers, and this data will then be used to target online ads.
According to a Charter spokeswoman, the cable-based ISP will “determine further roll outs in the coming months”. And now it has a bit more to think about. This morning, in response to the (scant) press coverage of the Charter-NebuAd tie-up, two Congressional bigwigs fired a letter to the ISP suggesting it put the skids on its test.
“We respectfully request that you do not move forward on Charter Communications’ proposed venture with NebuAd until we have an opportunity to discuss with you issues raised by this proposed venture,” wrote Ed Markey, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, and Joe Barton, a ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Of course, if Charter goes ahead, all they’ll have to do later is promise not to do it again. Any other unauthorized party who snooped and sold the browsing data of hundreds of customers would be facing serious federal time.