Charter Has Second Thoughts On Targeted Ads Directed At Broadband Subscribers

Score one for privacy advocates: Charter Communications (NSDQ: CHTR) is abandoning plans to place behavioral ads on web pages that are accessed by its broadband service subscribers, PC World reports. Charter cited the customer concerns in its statement today announcing the decision: “Our customers are always our first priority. As we do with all new service launches or initiatives, we conducted focus groups well in advance, which told us that most broadband consumers would look upon this service favorably. However, some of our customers have presented questions about this service as well as suggested improvements. We will continue to take a thoughtful, deliberate approach with the goal to ultimately structure an advertising service that enhances the Internet experience for our customers and addresses questions and concerns they’ve raised.” Charter had been testing a pilot program in four markets by behavioral targeting ad net NebuAd, which was set to launch this summer.

Charter and NebuAd have both come under fire from consumer rights groups for its opt-in — actually more like an opt-out — effort. Public Knowledge and Free Press accused the companies of spying on users by manipulating internet protocols with man-in-the-middle attacks; on top of that, two congressional representatives, Ed Markey (D-Mass. and Joe Barton (R-Tx.) sent the St. Louis-based cable company a letter questioning the plan, which was first proposed in May. While Charter is washing its hands of the targeting effort, NebuAd was left to defend its actions, saying it allows users to opt-out at any time and uses only industry-standard cookies and does not employ any trickery regarding internet protocols. A Charter spokeswoman told AP the decision was unrelated to the letter released earlier by Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal.