Bad news for NebuAd: The Silicon Valley ad-targeting startup is quickly becoming radioactive, and that can’t be good for its prospects. One week after Charter Communications backed off its plan to fork over data on consumer Web surfing habits, CenturyTel is also putting the brakes on its deal with NebuAd. In addition, Sprint (S) spinoff Embarq, which recently tested NebuAd, is now disavowing any connection to the company, according to MediaPost.
What’s NebuAd? A company that harvests your Web surfing data from your Internet provider to help target ads based on your Web activity. How is this different from AOL’s Tacoda or Yahoo’s Blue Lithium? Not very, except it gives a more detailed look at your surfing habits, and in the eyes of consumer groups and Congress, it’s a more invasive approach to consumer privacy. (The LA Times noted that five high-ranking NebuAd employees came from “one of the more notorious spyware companies around, Claria Corp.”)
NebuAd says it supports CenturyTel’s decision to hold off on implementing the service while Congress works out its issues with behavioural ad targeting. Unfortunately for the company, it’s quickly becoming a symbol of the nation’s unease with the practice. And any cable company that implements it risks a consumer backlash that outweighs any of NebuAd’s potential benefits.
While consumers seem to be fairly tolerant of cookie-based behavioural targeting by the various Web sites they visit, the campaign against their ISPs joining in is gaining traction, and NebuAd is becoming the poster child for violating consumer privacy. Is it fair? NebuAd is perceived to have stepped over the line of consumer privacy, so it hardly matters.
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