Lawmakers Press NebuAd Offensive, Lean On Another ISP

U.S. Congressmen have called out another Internet service provider for working with behavior tracking and ad serving firm NebuAd.

House Representatives Edward Markey, John Dingell, and Joe Barton this week penned a letter to Embarq, one of the behavioral targeting vendor’s early ISP partners. The missive requests detailed information on early tests the company conducted with NebuAd.

Depending on how you count, it’s the second or the third time lawmakers have raised questions about ISPs’ recent interest in tracking their subscribers’ Web meanderings for ad serving purposes. Charter Communications was the first to table its plans to work with NebuAd after Congress raised public concerns over the deal.

Right after that move, Rep. Markey urged other broadband companies considering “similar user profiling programs” to hold off while the privacy implications are addressed. In short order, DSL provider CenturyTel called off its own plans with NebuAd.

The latest move by Markey and his fellow lawmakers suggests Congress is unlikely to let the issue die down. Embarq is being asked to cough up a range of info, including how many subscribers were involved in the test, how Embarq notified them of the tests, and whether it conducted a legal analysis with regard to consumer privacy laws before flipping the switch. The Reps are also asking Embarq to provide a copy of the notifications used to inform subscribers of the test.

Embarq declined to comment, saying only that it has received and is reviewing the letter from Reps. Markey, Barton and Dingell.

In a statement on his Web site, Rep. Markey characterized the data NebuAd collects as potentially “highly personal and sensitive.”

He continued, “Embarq’s apparent use of this technology without directly notifying affected customers that their activity was being tracked, collected, and analyzed raises serious privacy red flags.”

Related reading