Charter To Begin Tracking Users' Searches And Inserting Ads

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.

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23 Comments

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This is the same kind of crap that Phorm was trying in the UK with "opt out" as the de facto method. Fortunately that has stalled due to likely conflicts with various laws we have here.

In any case opt out is ridiculous as you need to repeatedly opt out if you clear a cache or use a different browser. This is enforced ad pushing which should be considered equivalent to being forced to receive spam.

I'm glad I live in an area that offers Road Runner -- it's so much faster and reliable than Charter. I live just outside the limits for Charter, and I've heard nothing but complaints from all of their customers.

Been with Charter for over 8 years. Personally, I can't complain hardly a bit.

Sure I might can complain their e-mail is down at what seems to be the most critical time, but don't use their service/Outlook much at all. Never have liked the lack of decent, up to date info on their webiste too, but don't go there anyway.

This bit of suspicious activity kind of has me by the hairs though!
I can get Verizon DSL here, but last I knew, they were offereing 3/768, I think was the upload, but when I tried them, I was only getting 1.5/256. That has been a while ago, so i don't know if it's any better yet.

I tried the opt-out page

Charter Communications is not providing enhanced online advertising services in your area at this time. Should Charter launch such a program in your area, you will be notified in advance. At that time you will need to revisit this page and opt-out of the program.

looks like I'm without big brother for the moment

This has Big Brother written all over it. Its just like Microsoft making their deals with the FBI. Charter obviously is doing the same thing.

+1 lost customer here. This is the final strike and nail in the coffin for me to take. Tired of being lied to about outages (in fact been out since early this morning - at least 8hrs long. Support said they knew nothing...) and poor channel selection (i.e. fight with sports channels).

I think you might want to actually read the actually policy at Charter. It really is not as bad as they are saying. The Communist sometimes jumps the gun a bit. Further, it is not like most ISPs don't actually track your movements and log some of the information.

Still, for what it is worth, I would advise individuals to stay away from Charter as well. Their support leaves a lot to be desired.
In my region, we had outages every other week. Finally, the bandwidth was limited. When I did have their service a few years back and had a 3mb connection, I usually only got about 1/3 of the potential.

Aren't there other competitors in the area that Charter is in?
Earthlink, Time Warner/Brighthouse, Capt Dave's Fast Internet Access Company....
I mean it should be easy to abandon ship, right?

Depends on the area. In Western NC, its either Charter or satellite for television. Internet was limited to dial-up from Bellsouth, cable from Charter, or some kind of business T1 system. I had to go through the Better Business Bureau 3 times with Charter for various reasons.

I love how they turn "complete abolishment of privacy and serving up ads tailored to you" into "enhanced online experience".

Someone apparently needs to look up "enhanced" in the dictionary.

Now I'm wondering....is there a faster way to lose your customers?

I guess they don't think about the people that use Firefox and adblocking software, where are they living? I use Charter and I am not worried about the ads. Throw in a little IP Blocker for anonymous surfing and their devious plot is foiled. Correct me if I am wrong here.

Ummm... Since they assign your IP and talk directly to the cable modem that they own...

I think they have you by the short hairs. ;)

The "anonymizers" are to spoof the end destination, not the one directly providing your connection!

(markjensen said @ #5.1)
Ummm... Since they assign your IP and talk directly to the cable modem that they own...

I think they have you by the short hairs. ;)

The "anonymizers" are to spoof the end destination, not the one directly providing your connection! :laugh:

Charter does allow the use of your very own cable modem. You aren't required to use one they provide. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

(LipSmacker said @ #5.2)
Charter does allow the use of your very own cable modem. You aren't required to use one they provide. Just thought I'd throw that out there. ;)
That's fine. But regardless of own/rent/lease/steal/self-fabrication of the cable modem, Charter would be the ISP, and therefore would always know what traffic you are getting.

(Smashing Pumpkin said @ #4)
Could you not get out of any contract as they've changed their terms?

They don't use contracts. Just call, listen to them beg you to stay (with offers and discounts), and cancel.

Charter's overall performance and customer service is awful. I was stuck with them for 4 years b/c there was no competition. Thank goodness that I never have to deal with that awful company again. To anyone that uses them, switch to satellite.

I year ya. I was about to switch back earlier this year to get their 10MB/sec offering as I am currently stuck on Bellsouth's 3MB/sec turtle. I went through all the steps on the website to sign up, called a customer service rep who informed me that they needed to perform a credit check to create an account for me. Greedy for speed, I said 'OK'. Five minutes later, after they've dinged my credit, the guy comes back and tells me I'm only eligible for the 5MB/sec where I live. The old Bait & Switch.

Farging Bastages!!!!!!

(rusmo said @ #3.1)
I year ya. I was about to switch back earlier this year to get their 10MB/sec offering as I am currently stuck on Bellsouth's 3MB/sec turtle. I went through all the steps on the website to sign up, called a customer service rep who informed me that they needed to perform a credit check to create an account for me. Greedy for speed, I said 'OK'. Five minutes later, after they've dinged my credit, the guy comes back and tells me I'm only eligible for the 5MB/sec where I live. The old Bait & Switch.

Farging Bastages!!!!!!

mb/s (ie megaBITS, not megaBYTES).

But yeah.. I'm on verizon dsl already, because last time I was on charter it was constantly down. Lesser of two evils

Obviously this company is in serious financial trouble and is looking to this to shore up their position.

The message to all their customers is to dump them ASAP and find a company that is not about to go out of business and leave them in the lurch.