WASHINGTON, D.C. - Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Ranking Members Joe Barton (R-TX) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL), today sent letters to 33 leading Internet and broadband companies including Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, Microsoft, Google, and others, pressing them for information about the extent to which they collect information about consumers' use of their broadband services or websites.

"Privacy is a cornerstone of freedom. Online users have a right to explicitly know when their broadband provider is tracking their activity and collecting potentially sensitive and personal information," said Rep. Markey.

"New technologies, such as ‘deep packet inspection' technologies, have the ability to track every single website that a consumer visits while surfing the Web.  This sweeping ability to collect, analyze, and profile how individuals use their broadband connection raises clear privacy issues and I believe such activity should occur only with the express prior consent of individual citizens.  In addition, individual websites and search engines and their affiliates that monitor users also owe consumers constructive notice of such activities and the right to limit or thwart any personal data collection."

The lawmakers' letter requests responses to 11 specific questions and was sent to the following companies: Bresnan Communications; Bright House Networks; CableOne; Cablevision; Charter; Comcast; Cox; Insight; Knology; Mediacom; RCN; Suddenlink; Time Warner Cable; WideOpenWest; AT&T; CenturyTel; Citizen Communications; Earthlink; Qwest; TDS Telecom; Windstream Communications; Verizon; United Online; PAETEC; XO Communications; Cbeyond; Level 3; Covad; tw telecom; AOL; Google; Microsoft; and Yahoo!.

"I look forward to the responses from these companies.  This information will allow the Congress to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the nature and extent to which user-tracking technologies are being implemented and the impact they could have on consumer privacy and Internet communications generally," added Rep. Markey.

Rep. Markey chaired a hearing on this issue on July 17th and has previously requested information from Charter Communications and Embarq about their use of user-tracking software.

Full text of the letter is available HERE and additional information can be found HERE.


August 1, 2008

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