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Randy George
Randy George
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Your ISP Is Selling YOUR Web Surfing Data. Do You Care?

Most of us are aware of how various sites and ad networks data mine the cookies on your computer to produce targeted ads on Web sites that you frequent, but not many are aware of how pervasively ISPs are starting...

Most of us are aware of how various sites and ad networks data mine the cookies on your computer to produce targeted ads on Web sites that you frequent, but not many are aware of how pervasively ISPs are starting to participate in the process of selling your Web-surfing habits to the ad networks. One particular product, from a company called NebuAd, promises a healthy revenue stream to ISPs willing to drop their Web-sniffing appliances in their NOCs. In fact, the appliance itself is provided to ISP's for free.

The NebuAd solution, and others like it, have data privacy advocates up in arms, but NebuAd contends that it only captures general behavioral data, and adds that it stores no personally identifiable information on the customer. NebuAd also contends that no Web sites of an explicit nature are recorded and that it does not serve out ads of an explicit nature.

From a data harvesting perspective, it doesn't appear to me that NebuAd is doing anything different than other providers of behavioral marketing solutions. What's different here is that ISPs are now complicit and are generating revenue from sharing your personal surfing habits with the ad networks. In NebuAd's defense, it does require ISPs to disclose to customers that its solution is installed in their NOCs, but most customers report missing the extremely fine print that contains the disclosure.

Do you think we as customers should share in this extra revenue the ISPs are enjoying at our expense? Do you view this double dipping by ISPs as nefarious? And lastly, do most customers even care? We don't seem to mind when brick-and-mortar retailers record our shopping habits at the point of sale, but when it comes to the recording of our electronic shopping habits, there's a feeling of violation.

I'm interested in your input, so add a comment to this blog and let me know how you feel about this technology.

Randy George has covered a wide range of network infrastructure and information security topics in his 4 years as a regular InformationWeek and Network Computing contributor. He has 13 years of experience in enterprise IT, and has spent the last 8 years working as a ... View Full Bio
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