Charter Communications is sending letters to its customers informing them of an "enhanced online experience" that involves Charter monitoring its users' searches and the websites they visit, and inserting targeted third-party ads based on their web activity. Charter, which serves nearly six million customers, is requiring users who want to keep their activity private to submit their personal information to Charter via an unencrypted form and download a privacy cookie that must be downloaded again each time a user clears his web cache or uses a different browser.
Reader Matt copied us on a letter he sent to Charter's VP of Customer Operations and CEO.
Matt's letter focuses on the flawed opt-out clause, but the program itself, an implementation of "deep packet inspection," is more worrying to us. Deep packet inspection allows an ISP to monitor not only its users searches and visited websites, but also the type of activity (e.g., email or peer-to-peer), which could be used for traffic shaping and threatens net neutrality.