Congress to hold hearing on cable advertising

Apr 22, 2009 By DEBORAH YAO , AP Business Writer

(AP) -- Cable operators will sit in the hot seat Thursday as Congress reviews their plans to roll out targeted advertising amid fears that consumer privacy could be infringed if the companies were to track and record viewing habits.

The House subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet will hold a hearing that will look at new uses for digital set-top boxes, the devices that control channels and perform other tasks on the TV screen. Cable TV companies plan to use such boxes to collect data and direct ads more targeted to individual preferences.

"We have recently called on Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate cable's new interactive targeted TV ad system on both antitrust and privacy grounds," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

He's concerned about Canoe Ventures, a consortium formed by the nation's six largest cable companies to oversee the rollout of targeted and interactive ads nationally. Chester worries that Canoe will track what consumers do in their homes.

Currently, cable companies aim their ads based strictly on geography.

Now, cable's goal is to take the Internet's success with targeted ads and transfer that to the TV medium. Thus, a household that watches a lot of Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel eventually could be targeted for theme parks promotions. This type of targeting is something can't do.

For starters, Canoe plans to offer ads this summer that consider demographic factors such as age and income. Philadelphia-based Corp. and Corp. of Bethpage, N.Y., also have been testing or rolling out targeted ads outside the consortium.

But are wary about being seen as trampling on consumer privacy and reiterate that they don't plan to target based on any personally identifiable information, such as someone's name and address.

Canoe said it doesn't have plans this year to use set-top box data for ads. Instead, the first ads it plans to roll out will use demographic data collected by outside companies.

Interactive ads will come later in the year. Consumers watching TV could see a button pop up that they can click using their TV remote control if they wish to get more information about the product or service being advertised. They will be sent the information using the address on file with the cable company. Canoe said it will get customers' consent to such targeting first.

Testifying before the subcommittee is Kyle McSlarrow, chief executive of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. Consumer advocacy groups represented include Free Press and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The hearing will also focus on how network operators track consumers online and through wireless networks. AT&T Inc. is sending its chief privacy officer, Dorothy Attwood.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cable's answer to online's ad success: targeting

Apr 07, 2009

(AP) -- You're watching Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," when suddenly you see a commercial for the Mustang convertible you've been eyeing - with a special promotion from Ford, which knows you just ended your ...

Ad watchdog: Cablevision Internet not 'fastest'

Mar 27, 2009

(AP) -- Cablevision Systems Corp. should stop saying its Internet service is "the fastest around," the advertising industry's self-regulatory body said Thursday, in response to complaints from competitor Verizon Communications ...

Cable TV companies mull impact of online video

Apr 01, 2009

(AP) -- Cable TV operators have treaded gingerly with online video. The companies want to meet consumer demand for watching shows on the Internet. But they don't want cable TV to lose its place as the home's main entertainment ...

Comcast, Sony to open joint retail store

Mar 16, 2009

(AP) -- Despite the poor economy, Comcast Corp. and Sony Corp. plan to open a retail store Tuesday. The cable TV operator and the electronics company will use the store to showcase new technologies and products, taking a ...

Time Warner Cable shelves some Internet cap plans

Apr 16, 2009

Bowing to mounting public and political pressure, Time Warner Cable Inc. said Thursday it was shelving plans in four markets to charge customers based on how much Internet traffic they generate. But tests of metered billing ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

Apr 17, 2014

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 0

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...