Blog Post

Broadband ISPs Vow Ad-Targeting To Be ‘Opt-In’ In Congressional Hearing

Although they don’t currently target ads to their broadband subscribers, representatives from *AT&T*, *Time Warner Cable*, and *Verizon Communications* appeared before a Senate committee and promised to adopt a system that would seek customers permission first before serving behavioral ads, ClickZ reported. In a period of increased scrutiny on behavioral targeting, cable companies and telcos are still holding out hope that they can convince lawmakers to allow the industry to self-regulate.

Both houses of Congress have been looking into online ad targeting since the summer, when *Charter Communications* executives were summoned to Capitol Hill to outline a planned test of behavioral ad provider Nebuad’s system. Charter (NSDQ: CHTR) abruptly canceled its test of Nebuad’s program after 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. Shortly after, other cable and telcos soon dropped their planned tests.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation took up hearings on online advertising in July. ISPs did not attend that hearing, though they were invited by committee member Byron Dorgan (D- North Dakota). Dorgan said there was no threat of imminent legislation over behavioral targeting, saying the members merely wanted to be educated about whether or not more government oversight is needed. However, Dorgan did make a more general statement, suggesting that the nation’s privacy laws do need some updating. Whether or not Congress does decide to craft a bill to deal with behavioral targeting — not that it doesn’t have its hands full already with a battle over the faltering Wall St. bailout — ISPs will also need to court state governments, which have been very keen about taking on targeted ads.