AT&T To Congress: Google Spies On Web Surfing, So We Will, Too

By Beeker · Aug 14, 2008 · ·
  1. Beeker
    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.

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  1. The Dreamer
    I can't believe our taxes are paying for this shit. 'Secret Agents' looking for *gasp!* porn. Sometimes I just want to walk in a random direction and live where no one will find me.
  2. cra$h
    they were looking for porn back in the 60's. things have changed from that, and it seems like every site you go on is another match maker or some porn site. of course this was durring the 60's, and it's not like we had nothing else to worry about....oh yea, besides that whole vietnam thing, and I guess I can't forget to mention the soviet union..... but it is bullshit we're paying taxes to be labeled as terrorist. all the more reason to support an anarchy state.
  3. The Dreamer
    Do you really think anarchy would work? Intrigued.
  4. Beeker
    It would mean giving up the computer and Internet. I don't think most people could pull just that off. It takes real balls to actively give up a good life to rot in jail just for your own ideology.

    Even the really crazy people like the uni-bomber had very little (if any) positive impact on the system. Look at 9/11 - it just made it easier for big brother to spy on Joe America.

    If there were active terrorist out to get America the border with Mexico is utterly wide open. 60 year old Mexican men still make a good living with a mule and the open land between the US and Mexico. They just pack 100's pounds of weed over the Texas border several times a week. I met a 68 year old guy who had been doing it sense he was 12 and the only reason he was caught is because he switched to an ATV 4-wheeler.
  5. The Dreamer
    ...I'm a little confused.

    I mean do you think that anarchy as a social structure could actually provide people with the same opportunities they have now (or at least something comparable).
  6. Beeker
    I don't think that is possible because anarchy by definition means something like 'free from any governing bodies.' You remove the government and the roads fall apart, the currency becomes worthless, and law would be up in the air as to how to deal with the real dangerous people. You'd have to take things back to something like the Wild West before organizing things enough to get to where we are. But then you just introduce a new government so anarchy would be dropped thus it still has a big FAIL on it.

    The people who would love to make a change to the system they throw in federal so when they get out they can't make a difference (I can't vote nor run for office.)

    Most people are fine with being in dept up to their ears. Most people don't care if weed is illegal or not - even if they smoke it - because they don't have very stiff penalties for small amounts.

    It's like this old George Carlin bit:
  7. Richard_smoker
    this is absolutely ridiculous!

    I recall the first time Google released information about its new plan for its own email service: GMAIL...

    part of the reason they required that you get an INVITATION to get your own account, was so that they wouldn't have to deal with some giant ticking "time bomb"--where suddenly someone "discovers" that they were 'reading' the contents of your email all along!

    When Google does it, it's one thing.
    Gmail explicitly warned me that if I didn't like the idea of targeted-ads, then I wouldn't like Gmail!
    Gmail gives me 8GB of free storage.
    Gmail allows me to archive ALL my old emails...
    In fact, with those 8GBs, Gmail has NEVER had to haphazardly deleted any of my old emails without my permission....(err, unlike Hotmail!)
    Gmail's webmail & Google's search engines are hands-down, without-question, THE BEST IN THEIR CLASS.
    Google is free!
    But Google was clear from the begining.
    Google warned me (informed me) before I FIRST SIGNED UP that they utilize keyword-analysis to target ads directly to me...
    ...that they would "see" what I was doing with emails, that they would "see" my subject lines, but they reasonably assured me that it would be for the purpose of advertising only, etc. etc. etc.

    ...and I was (and still am) totally, 100% O.K. with the way Google has used "content-analysis" on my emails..

    But there's a very important part of this whole relationship between me & Google that AT&T doesn't seem to get. Lets see if I can say this without yelling...


    When AT&T offers me a :mad: free cellular package or a :mad: free home-internet connection, explicitly in exchange for my privacy, THEN WE'LL TALK....until then, :mad:AT&T can EAT ME.:mad:

  8. seeingred
    Just make up shit! That's what I fact, they probably have a really rediculous file on swim and know everything because it is all to their access. It doesn't breach just confidentiality but safety comes first! Safety, but what would they wiretap? You know that when we picked up our pet they offered it to be chipped? NO JOKE, like a little chip gets inserted in the dogs skin. When they do that to people, and I can't say DON'T CHIP ME. That's when pigs fly! How about we re-direct the phone lines to back to the government, AKA ME. and AKA all of YOU. There is a difference between a totalitarian state and a democracy...and what's that? That is, they don't spy on their own citizens in a free state vs. like Brave New World meets the Matrix.

    seeingred added 8 Minutes and 57 Seconds later...

    No, they still can. "Things" haven't changed.
  9. Beeker
    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! :thumbsdown:

    Google Privacy Practices Worse Than ISP Snooping, AT&T Charges

    August 15, 2008 | 5:03:49 PM WIRED

    Online advertising networks -- particularly Google's -- are more dangerous than the fledgling plans and dreams of ISPs to install eavesdropping equipment inside their internet pipes to serve tailored ads to their customers, AT&T says.

    At least that's what the company told Congress in a letter early this week, responding to four prominent House lawmakers who are bird-dogging ISPs about their online profiling practices. Those lawmakers asked 33 internet companies on Aug. 1 to explain some of their monitoring practices, Most have replied.

    In its letter (.pdf), AT&T denies that it currently digs deep into the net habits of its users "for the purpose [of] developing a profile of a particular consumer's online behavior."* (AT&T is currently facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly helping the NSA spy on Americans' internet usage, but that's a different issue since the NSA does not run ads.)

    However, it says it may bake this kind of surveillance into its tubes in the future using so-called Deep Packet Inspection technology. The company rightly says could be also be used to detect copyright infringement, speed up packets of streaming video and detect child pornography.

    But even if it did, that's nothing compared to Google, it says.

    "If anything the largely invisible practices of ad-networks raise even greater privacy concerns than do the behavioral advertising techniques that ISPs could employ, such as deep-packet-inspection," AT&T wrote.

    AT&T rightly points out that Google can know almost as much a snooping ISP could -- which, is the case for users who install Google's toolbar and don't know to opt out of Google's Web History program. And if Google does combine its third-party cookie information, with user's search histories, with Gmail summaries, and with Google Analytics data, among other data sources, they would be a proper domestic intelligence agency.

    AT&T writes:

    AT&T goes on to say then that because of Google's singular ability to gather online data that online advertising networks are substantially similar to ISPs monitoring their customers.

    Google and Yahoo are perhaps the only two online empires that AT&T could realistically point towards to make that argument.

    It's a clever argument, since online advertising cookies are nearly universally accepted and there are voluntary codes of conduct that most advertisers agree to in order to keep government regulators away.

    And certainly any ISP thinking about looking at what its users are doing has got to be worried given that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is on a roll -- taking on ISPs that want to or have watched what their customers do online in order to serve them targeted ads. That roll is reportedly heading towards a long-fabled online privacy omnibus bill. Add to that, this month's unprecedented decision by the Federal Communications Commission to slap down Comcast for its secret and deceptive interference with file sharing traffic.

    But the argument is also just wrong.

    You pay your ISP to carry your traffic to and fro.

    It can see everything you do online, unless you take extreme measures. It could know where you bank, the contents of your emails and chats, what sites you shop at, what you search about --regardless of search engine -- and everything you read or watch online.

    Your ISP does not need to be peering into your traffic to decide whether to show you ads for hemorrhoid cream or sports bobble heads.

    They just need to get that health information and that gallery of hockey's worst bobble heads to your browser quickly.

    * Threat Level readers may enjoy this full sentence from the letter: "AT&T does not at this time engage in practices that allow it to track a consumer's search and browsing activities across multiple unrelated websites for the purpose [of] developing a profile of a particular consumer's online behavior."
  10. seeingred
    That's crazy and dangerous. For every little kid who uses Google that looks up the wrong thing or writes something could be labeled criminal. Then she or he gets tapped without knowing it. What rights does he or she have? Is this something that should be treated as confidential in the eyes of who? In the eyes of our representatives? And who represents the common citizen? Honestly, what SWIM is worried about is that this SWIM business could be getting more common in the future if they use it to blackmail United States citizens. It's the blackmail they use against Presidents like that Obama supported pro-life when he says blatantly "This time, it is pretty lame. They are lying..." That's what SWIM feels, inside, intuitively: They take our country as a joke.
  11. Beeker
    There was a woman who got a federal conviction a few years back because she crossed state lines with a bunch of vibrators. Don't fool yourself into thinking anything is safe.

    If they wanted to they could use your words here to lock you away. It just takes one Hanging judge and some bored FBI.
  12. cra$h
    In the digital age, it's becomming increasingly easier. 100 years ago, no. 10 years ago, it wouldn't work. It would be a lot of change, and some setback, but no one would have a right to complane. The only problem is (atleast in American sociaty) is that for anarchy to work, you need to love your neighbor, and learn to work togeather, not just for yourself. There's no more respect anywhere you go anymore. Doesn't matter if it's the inner streets of Philadelphia, or in bumblefuck Georgia. If we all could see past our noses, and even better, our WALLETS, anarchy could easily work. It's just too much change for our little brains. For example, look at the communes of the 60's. What killed it? A) Greed. B) The government, and their grip on the rest of the population.
  13. The Dreamer
    I agree to an extent. The fact that people want money and power is just a product of our trying to survive as a species. Ultimately, working as a team is much more profitable. When we remove all the barriers that guide society in self-serving directions (self-serving for certain parties) I think such a society will work.
  14. Panthers007
    Sounds like AT&T is the Republican and Google is the Democrat. Next AT&T will claim Google is Moslem and is "soft on terrorism!" I'll bet AT&T has the US government contract to install phone service in Iraq.
  15. Richard_smoker
    haha... i say GOOD! Hopefully, AT&T loses the lawsuit, but then, I suppose my rates will go up! ahh... choosing sides is always so difficult. no one ever gets off scott-free it seems. not even the innocent.

  16. Beeker
    And AT&T will get a female Vice President? Interesting.

    I love the fact that you KNOW Dick had no say so in that running mate. A former POW and a present jackass there is no way he would have picked a woman. Bitch move. Like all the Hilary support would suddenly shift to a lady who has been in politics 1 year and is currently under investigation.

    I support Google. :thumbsup:
  17. Richard_smoker
    lol..:applause:..then AT&T will tell Google that it's doing one thing to re-instate Iraqi phone lines...while at the same time, AT&T will be actually tapping into Google's business calls, personal calls, emails, call-forwarding, caller-id, call history, and voice mails so that AT&T can use valuable bits of information against Google at any time...including but not limited to current and threatened blackmailing of Google, should Google attempt to compete against AT&T's products or should Google's actions in any way threaten AT&T's gainful pursuit of wealth in an otherwise "free" economy (minus Google and any other competitors). -DICK

    then 10,000 Google-sympathizers will stand outside AT&T's convention in active protest...this may marginally affect the results of a public opinion poll...but in the end, more Americans will probably react to the protest by sympathizing with AT&T...causing AT&T to "win" the public sentiments...for only the 24 hours necessary for AT&T to be "victorious" electing another jackass into office...wait, what am I talking about again???
  18. The Dreamer
    Protest is one thing but those idiots are just making us look bad. What is every Republican saying right about now: "See, I told you they were terrorists!" But I'm off topic.
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