NYT Bits scribe Saul Hansell (SAI 100 #29) confirms an earlier report that Charter Communications, the No. 4 cable company, has started warning its cable modem subscribers that it will start tracking all of the Web sites they visit. Charter (CHTR) will sell the data to a firm called NebuAd, which will use subscribers’ browsing history to target which ads they’ll see. Charter will test the system in four markets within a month and will then decide whether or not to roll it out to its nearly 3 million Internet subscribers, Hansell reports.
What’s the point? Charter portrays the move as an “enhancement” with which its subscribers would see better-customised ads. But in reality, it’s all about more money. NebuAd is willing to pay Internet providers “several dollars per subscriber per month,” Hansell reports.
The reality: While this may seem a bit creepy, it’s probably where the Web is headed. The data is being harvested anonymously. And Charter, to its credit, sent subscribers a relatively cleanly worded letter explaining the technology and how they could opt out. Other ISPs, like Embarq (EQ) and Wide Open West, wouldn’t discuss the targeting system with Hansell.