Background: Charter Communications said this afternoon it will not now move forward with a pilot project involving NebuAd, a company that provides targeted advertising for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). A technical investigation by Public Knowledge and Free Press found that consumers are having their Web browsing intercepted and Web sites are having their computer code altered by NebuAd. The report is available here.
The following statement is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:
“We are pleased that Charter has agreed to cancel its participation in pilot projects with NebuAd ‘at this time.’ However, Charter statement leaves room for participation at a future time. Should Charter decide to enter into commercial arrangements with NebuAd, it should be on the basis that NebuAd will not intercept customers’ data and plant false code in it.
“At the same time, we call on other customers of NebuAd to follow Charter’s lead and to stop doing business with a company that violates customers’ privacy as well as established technical standards on the Internet.
In the report, “NebuAd and Partner ISPs: Wiretapping, Forgery and Browser Hijacking,” Robert M. Topolski, the chief technical consultant for the organizations, found that NebuAd uses special equipment that “monitors, intercepts and modifies the contents of Internet packets” as consumers go online. NebuAd commandeers users’ Web browsers” to load tracking cookies and collects information from users in order to place ads from ISPs.
NebuAd hardware has also been deployed by WOW!, Embarq, Broadstripe, CenturyTel, Metro Provider and others. The NebuAd partnership with Charter was originally announced to start June 15.
Topolski found that NebuAd, after being installed on the WOW! network, injects extra hidden code into a user’s browser that was not sent by the Web site being visited. That code directs the user’s Web browser to another site not requested or even seen by the consumer, where hidden code is downloaded and executed to add more tracking cookies.
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