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House to Hold Hearing Regarding Partnerships Between Ad Firms, ISPs

A deal with the devil
can be a burden to bear

The House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee will conduct a hearing this Thursday to examine partnerships between internet service providers (ISPs) and online ad firms like Phorm and NebuAd.

The hearing builds on last week's Senate Commerce Subcommittee gathering on behavioral advertising, where attendees debated whether partnerships between ad firms and ISPs infringe upon user privacy.

Representative Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), who chairs the subcommittee, favors opt-in standards for ISPs that wish to use customer data to serve advertising. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the committee, agrees.

"I understand the need to collate information. I just don't think it should be done without my permission," Barton stated last week at a Congressional Quarterly and Dow Lohnes-sponsored forum.

Prior to last week's Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing, privacy advocates presented data comparing NebuAd, which partners with ISPs to serve ads based on customer online activity, to browser hijacks and malware. Charter Communications, NebuAd's largest ISP partner, opted to dissolve its partnership with the company. Two other ISPs have publicly distanced themselves from NebuAd since then.

But concerns about behavioral targeting are not limited to ISPs and controversial ad vendors. Following news that Google uses previous search data to serve ads on current queries, Google added a privacy link to its site to preempt backlash from volatile privacy advocates.


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