Charter Communications (CHTR), the nation’s fourth-largest cable company, has backed down on its plan to track subscribers’ Web surfing and then sell that data to advertisers. Charter was to provide the data to Silicon Valley startup NebuAd in a deal that was drawing much attention in Washington. But last night it said it was “not moving forward with the pilots at this time.” NebuAd has deals with several small cable operators to provide targeted ads based to subscribers based on where they go on the Web.
How is that different than, say, AOL’s Tacoda, or Yahoo’s Blue Lithium? It isn’t, except that Charter could, theoretically, give a much more comprehensive picture of its users online behaviour than any single third-party source, and that made privacy advocates and regular foes in Congress even more uneasy. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) recently asked Charter CEO Neil Smit to delay implementation of the deal pending an investigation.
Charter didn’t rule out working with NebuAd in the future, and NebuAd CEO Robert Dykes told the NYTimes “we think they will still work with us.”
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