Blown To Bits

ISPs Back Away From Packet Inspection

Monday, September 1st, 2008 by Harry Lewis

We’ve blogged before about the advantages to advertisers to know your search habits, and more generally, what sort of thing interests you, as those preferences are revealed by your Internet usage. NebuAd is a pioneer in “deep packet inspection,” opening the “envelopes” of data being sent to you to report back to the ISP what’s in them. The privacy issues surrounding this practice have come up for congressional scrutiny; see previous blog posts here and here.

The AP reports good news today: the pressure is working. ISP’s are deciding not to renew their arrangements with NebuAd in such numbers that the company’s financial status is touchy. Boston Globe story here: Privacy concerns may derail web tracking venture.

Once again, if there were competition and full disclosure, the federal government would not have to get involved. But neither operates robustly enough to restrain the industry, and the technology for this kind of unexpected snooping on our behavior is getting better and better. So laws are going to be needed, in spite of this apparent short-term victory.

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