ISPs Track Web Behavior Without Permission: Privacy Legislation Here We Come

Lora Bentley

It's no secret that Internet service providers like Google or Comcast log user Web traffic. But apparently quite a few of them are using the information they collect about their users to deliver targeted advertising, and they're doing so without the users' permission.


The Washington Post reported Tuesday that some Web firms that participated in a bi-partisan congressional inquiry on the issue admitted they don't always have explicit consent to use the data as it's being used. For example, Google says it has started using the DoubleClick ad-serving cookie, but doesn't ask users to "opt in" to the targeted advertising program. Instead, the company allows users to opt out. Google representatives point out that the company does not use deep-packet inspection technology.


Companies like NebuAd have at least tested the technology with broadband providers, the story says. Specifically, Cable One and Knology tested deep-packet inspection without informing users. A Cable One representative told the Washington Post, however, that it doesn't plan to use the technology and that if it did, it would want users to opt in first.


The widescale sharing of information across different networks scares some lawmakers, who are raising privacy concerns. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which conducted the inquiry. He says he and colleagues will introduce legislation including an online privacy bill of rights next year.

Our responsibility is to make sure that we create a law that, regardless of the technology, includes a set of legal guarantees that consumers have with respect to their information.

He noted that such legislation should include a specific requirement that Web companies must get explicit consent from users (via an opt-in process) before tracking their online behavior and then sharing that information with third parties.


There are two sides to every argument, however. On the other side of this one is Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). He noted that such measures would hurt smaller companies' chances of reaching customers, which could further harm the economy. Stearns advocated "self-regulation that focuses on transparency" instead.

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Aug 13, 2008 9:29 AM Richard Lauzon Richard Lauzon  says:
Oh yes, leave the responsibility to the companies them selves, right?? And where do we keep the" sheep" in connection with the "wolves???" NO, NO, NO! I am so tired of eating these freaking "cookies" after cookies that warn me by McAfees that this or that cookie is endangering your files and is gathering information, on plain ol' business? NOPE! On what we do, where we shop, for what we look for, what we want to see, so these "cookies" should be examined by the ones who are acting in a spy-ish fashion. When I was told 18 years ago that cookies were left so your browser could find that site when you wanted to go there again". Now, we know that ia entirely Bullshit, is it not?? We are being spied on and that information is valueable to others we are NOT wanting looking at our habits, for that is personal, and is none of "ANYONE'S" business, I have Mcafees Firewall, which informs you of whom, where the IP, the ISP, the port being invaded w.o. invitation. and the reast that just pissed me off everytimeI saw 40-100 attempts in a row, about a split second apart trying to invade my (hopefully) opened ports, where they have no BUSINESS, and because that is unlawful "WIRE TAPPING" WE NEED LAW to protect us and our privacy. What or where I am is my concern and noone elses...is that not what the Constitution says in it's entirity??? So Law is the answer. Pass laws to evict them from the airwaves.. Let us charge any infiltrator $$$ to explore our activities...about $500.00 per hour should cover my expenses of being watched!Rick Fourstrings Lauzon Reply
Aug 13, 2008 4:02 PM Basil Basil  says:
Richard, I am as angered as you about the incessant assaults on our privacy. But can we really trust government to protect our privacy? Reply
Sep 1, 2009 11:58 AM kathy cleland kathy cleland  says: in response to Basil

I am sick to death of people advertising our company with the incorrect details and then telling us its alright as we are getting free advertising.

What protection do we have against these people that steal business identities to enhance their web presence?

We could sue, but on what grounds?


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