ISP to Spy on User Activity to Deliver Targeted Ads

May 15, 2008 • 9:29 am | comments (6) by twitter | Filed Under Contextual Ads

United States ISP Charter Communications announced that it will start looking at your surfing behavior to find you relevant ads.

While continuing to deliver the same fast and reliable Internet service you’ve always received, innovative new technology in the field of online advertising enables Charter to provide you with an enhanced online experience that is more customized to your interests and activities. As a result of this service, the advertising you typically see online will better reflect the interests you express through your web-surfing activity. You will not see more ads – just ads that are more relevant to you.

While Charter is probably the first ISP to do this, it's already being contested as a heavy invasion of privacy as well as something heavily questionable since any ISP can swap out AdSense IDs for their own and monetize off their members' clicks.

Will anything be done? That's the question. Will Charter get away with it? Perhaps websites will need to block Charter Communications from overriding their own ads (and consequently "defacing a third party website") -- by not letting Charter in at all.

Legally, this can be a problem as well. It may be copyright infringement if they're taking a website served by another company and just replacing ads.

But this may also cause another problem for publishers: if this gains traction, more users will start using ad-blocking solutions that may not necessarily bode well for those who are trying to make a buck off of their hard-earned work. As a statement to Charter, they may install some software to circumvent the ads, but other people will end up suffering as a result.

Overall, the forum members are appalled and think that it won't pass in a court of law. I'm not a Charter Communications user (thankfully), but I'd hope they don't get away with this myself.

Forum discussion continues (and it's long and more informative than this post!) at WebmasterWorld.

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Lorenz Lammens

05/15/2008 03:15 pm

BT has experimented with this before, and is planning to try something similar. The admission that they spied on their customers over a period of 2 years caused outrage in the UK:


05/15/2008 08:34 pm

I am a charter member, there are the most ghetto isp ever!!! all u have to do is change your DNS to so that they wont track you Screw em!!!


05/15/2008 09:24 pm

Listen up Everyone, I live in Fort Worth Texas. My cousin works at charter and they are in fact spying on you. But to think that their is any privacy on the internet anyways is silly. These Corporations are scum, before you know it we are gonna be just like China. Someone needs to stand up to these bullies and fight this, where is our freedom of speech??, if you give them a inch they will take it a mile, this is the most intrusive thing I have encountered, it would be like if the power companies were able to see what appliances u were using when you plugged them into a electrical socket, give me a break, are we free? Where is the privacy? I know most people would say that "well if im not doing anything wrong then why does it matter?" well thats like saying why does someone need to own a gun unless they are law enforcement or a criminal. Charter is a bunch of Bastards!!!! Everyone needs to take a deep look at this, and fight the power! This should be a crime! Long live freedom, this isn't China Wake up everyone, wake up, open your eyes, OPEN YOUR EYES!!!!!!

Bill Sebald

05/16/2008 01:56 pm

ISPs give away a lot of information on you routinely, including to competitive applications and data providers, with the promise of your name being scrubbed. I'm not surprised to hear that this ISP is taking it to the next level. Grossed-out, yes, but not surprised. Someone was going to do it eventually - this is a bad, bad precedent.


05/16/2008 05:55 pm

Jack - can your cousin get the email addresses of the wigs at Charter? If so, spread the word and enourage a mass backlash by all Charter subscribers!


05/16/2008 06:38 pm

Between this and what Google is trying to do with Facebook user information, the internet and social media in particular is getting to be a bad place to be at. Privacy doesn't seem to mean diddly.

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