Charter Announces It Will Abandon User Tracking

Last month we reported on Charter Communications’ plan to start tracking its users internet activity in order to serve more targeted ads. Charter claimed customers could opt-out of the service, but a reader reviewed Charter’s opt-out method and discovered that even if you said no, you would still be tracked. Yesterday Charter announced it was abandoning the program and will not track its customers’ activities after all—at least for the immediate future.

Charter had planned to begin the program as early as this month in the test markets: Fort Worth; San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Oxford, Mass.; and Newtown, Conn.

Earlier Tuesday, Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, released a letter calling on Charter to drop the plan. A Charter spokeswoman, Anita Lamont, said the decision to do so was unrelated to Mr. Blumenthal’s letter.

Update:On the New York Times’ “Bits” blog, Charter admits they’re not ending the program—just postponing it until the heat’s off:

Anita Lamont, a spokeswoman for Charter, said the company wanted to take stock of “customer concerns about privacy.” Its executives, she said, were “just wanting to make sure everybody was comfortable.” Ms. Lamont said that Charter hopes to proceed with the system at some point in the future, but she wouldn’t say when.

“This is something we would move forward with when we think it’s time,” she said.

“Charter Won’t Track Customers’ Web Use” [New York Times]
“Charter Suspends Plan To Sell Customer Data to Advertisers” [Bits - New York Times]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. ffmariners says:

    If this was Google…

    :p

  2. Is anyone going to be monitoring Charter to see if they actually are not be tracking users (maybe the CT AG)? Because I doubt it’s this simple.

  3. nfs says:

    And they thought the users would favor this.

    WTF do they think, that their subscribers are lab rats?

  4. mussorgsky112 says:

    Having lived in CT most of my life, it’s nice to have an AG that actually does stuff.

  5. evslin says:

    A Charter spokeswoman, Anita Lamont, said the decision to do so was unrelated to Mr. Blumenthal’s letter.

    She also has oceanfront property in Nebraska she’d like to sell you…

  6. mike says:

    A Charter spokeswoman, Anita Lamont, said the decision to do so was unrelated to Mr. Blumenthal’s letter.

    Anyone buying this?

  7. boandmichele says:

    every single time ive called them recently for an ip refresh, or service change, ive bitched about this to everyone that will listen. i hope lots of other people did the same, and thats what made the difference. although it doesnt sound like they are diametrically opposed to it, this is still a temporary victory.

  8. colegrey says:

    @boandmichele:

    As a CSR for Charter, I can assure you that 1) very few people complained to us and 2) the few complaints we got did not influence this. Neither phone jockeys nor customers have any effect on corporate policy.

  9. colegrey says:

    @boandmichele:

    As a CSR for Charter, I can assure you that 1) very few people complained to us and 2) the few complaints we got did not influence this. Phone jockeys have no effect on corporate policy – and we probably weren’t really listening to you bitching anyways.

  10. It might have been OK, if (and that’s a really big IF) the system really worked, and I at least occasionally got ads for stuff I really wanted or needed. Anyone who has logged any miles on the Internet at all knows this is impossible. The people who are selling what I actually want to buy don’t advertise on the Internet because of the lingering stigma caused by the assorted scumbags who currently seem to own most of the ad space.

  11. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @linus: Not buying her letter, not buying that they’re actually canceling the program (at best I think they’re postponing it until a “safer” time), not buying anything Charter or affiliated with them.

  12. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @speedwell: Ditto.

    Seriously, I can’t add to that.

  13. crapple says:

    Well I left Charter last month…I figured, if I was going to be spied upon, I might as well save money and switch to ATT DSL.

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    If anyone thinks that squawking and hollering won’t make even the evilest, most monopolistic businesses shrink back from their stoopid policies as vampires shrink back from a sunlamp, remember this case.
    Same thing with bit torrent strangling: demand ISPs act as common carriers, as they agreed to when they first agreed to provide their gov’t-granted license. No changing business models midstream!

  15. AHemp says:

    Holler back, Bloomie! I was going to drop Charter over this — and they’re the only cable service provider in my area.

  16. drjayphd says:

    and Newtown, Conn.

    Aaaaaaaaand there’s Charter’s first mistake. Too bad Dickie B can’t do anything about Cox insisting Meriden is, in fact, in Rhode Island.

  17. K123 says:

    Internet anonymity is a huge issue for all online users. This scandal with Charter proves once more that we can not assume that just because we have a firewall and a virus scan nothing bad can happen to us. Protecting our personal data is important and there are a few free and reliable tools on line that can help. The on I used is produced by AnchorFree and is an industrials strength VPN called the Hotspot Shield. It conceals all the user information when he/she is online.
    http://www.hotspotshield.com

  18. rhombopteryx says:

    @linus:

    Sure, I’ll believe it. That was just a letter from 1 state AG. Companies hardly tremble over that anymore.

    I suspect it was the House of Representatives letter pointing out that monitoring was, um, illegal.

  19. boandmichele says:

    @colegrey: oh, :( oh well. made me feel better at least :D

  20. trustsatan says:

    I didn’t think too much of this (business as usual in the world) until I read that the ad-serving system in question was developed for Charter by ex-Claria (a.k.a Gator, GAIN adserver, etc.) guys. Gator was one of the worst things to happen to the internet in the late 90s – these people were trying their hardest to push back the line of what could be considered “legal” malware and making money off of the unsolicited use of unwilling “customers” resources. Even worse: after the millenium, by the time their company had become universally infamous for its dirty install and EULA practices, they started SUING snti-spyware groups for libel. There were tons of “How to remove Gator” web pages out there, since the software was impossible to uninstall without dinking with the registry, etc.

    It is wholly unsurprising that these greasy bastards would continue to attract investment capital, like a rotting corpse attracts flies…