AT&T To Congress:
Google Spies On Web Surfing, So We Will, Too
Michael Learmonth | August 14, 2008
AT&T (T) says it hasn't yet started systematically tracking Web users, but it will in the near future. The company is one of the latest to respond to a Congressional inquiry about Web tracking, and as the NYTimes' Saul Hansell reports, it's mounting a vigorous defense of ad targeting.
Specifically, AT&T says that gathering data on its Web users in order to serve targeted ads is no different than what Google (GOOG) and online ad firms are doing today:
Advertising network operators such as Google have evolved beyond merely tracking consumer Web surfing activity on sites for which they have a direct ad-serving relationship. They now have the ability to observe a user’s entire Web browsing experience at a granular level.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent 33 letters to ISPs asking about their Web tracking policies after Charter's proposed experiment with Web spy firm NebuAd came to light. So far, 32 have responded, and the big ISPs, Time Warner Cable (TWC), Verizon (VZ), Comcast (CMCSA) and AOL (TWX), have all said they don't monitor surfing behavior on sites they don't control.
But AT&T stands alone in arguing it should be able to use data gathering systems like NebuAd to target ads at users. But, AT&T says, unlike some of the ISPs caught in the dragnet so far, any tracking system it uses would be "opt-in" for users.