Sprint Spinoff Embarq: Yes, We Spied On Our Users. Nope, We Didn't (Really) Warn Them

Embarq (EQ), the latest ISP to get the once-over from Congress for spying on its subscribers, isn’t really helping its cause.

Last week, three House members sent a letter to the Kansas-based telco (spun off from Sprint in 2006) demanding to know if it notified its users before using software from controversial ad targeting firm NebuAd. Short answer: No. Embarq’s four-page response, made public today, is posted below.

Earlier this year, Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich), Ed Markey (D-Mass), and Joe Barton (R-Texas) questioned Embarq’s test of NebuAd, which tracks every Web site a subscriber visits in order to target advertising based on surfing behaviour.

What did they want to know? Specifically: “We are concerned that Embarq may not have directly notified the subscribers involved in the test that their Web use was being analysed and profiled,” they wrote, in a letter to the firm last week.

Embarq’s response confirmed their suspicions. Embarq did not actually tell its users that this test was taking place. What did they do? They posted a notice in the “Privacy Policy” on their Web site, along with what they call “clear directions on how to opt out.” The notice didn’t mention NebuAd, and since the test is over, it’s since been removed from the site.

Charter, by contrast, sent snail-mail letters to its users notifying they’re users of a plan to test NebuAd, which inspired the current lawmaker interest in the subject in the first place.

While Embarq argues it was following “industry-wide” practices at the time, it won’t help the campaign against behavioural targeting go away, and certainly won’t help NebuAd, which has become the lightening rod for all their concerns. Here’s what will truly torpedo all ISPs (not to mention Google’s) dreams of behavioural targeting: If Congress pushes to make such systems opt-in, so subscribers have to manually sign up for them.

Embarq congressional responseFree Legal Forms

See Also: Web Spying Firm NebuAd’s Latest Worry: Congress
Another Internet Provider Abandons Ad Targeting Plan
Charter: We’re Watcing You And Cashing In
Morgan: TV Will Make behavioural Targeting A $10 Billion Business

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