Congress concerned about privacy over cable TV ads (Update)

Apr 23, 2009

(AP) -- Congress put cable TV operators on notice that it will scrutinize their plans to roll out targeted advertising to viewers, questioning whether they will use set-top boxes sitting in millions of homes to monitor and store what people watch.

As part of a broader discussion Thursday over Internet privacy issues, at the House subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet brought up cable's newest advertising endeavor called Canoe Ventures.

They asked whether, and to what degree, set-top box data will be used to send targeted ads to viewers. That would mean, for instance, that pet food commercials are routed to households likely to have pets, based on a tendency to watch TV shows about animals.

The questions come even before Canoe, which was formed by the nation's six largest cable TV operators last year, has launched its first targeted advertisement.

But Canoe has no current plans to use data collected by set-top boxes, said Kyle McSlarrow, of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association who spoke at the hearing.

If use set-top box data in the future for targeted advertising, McSlarrow said, they will have to comply with existing cable laws protecting private consumer information.

"They're very conscious of the privacy implications of what they do," he said.

Canoe currently has two advertising products in the works. One uses demographic data, such as age and income, to send relevant ads to customers, starting this summer. The other, slated for later this year, would involve interactive ads, such as a button that pops up during a car commercial for viewers to click on with their remote control to get more information.

McSlarrow said the latter has a "built-in, opt in" system. Viewers choose to click on the button before information is sent to them using the address on file with the cable company.

The hearing focused on how deeply Internet service providers, which includes major cable TV operators, monitor customer traffic for the purpose of sending relevant ads based on consumer behavior, but without their express and informed consent.

On this matter, McSlarrow advocated for industry self-regulation.

The subcommittee's chairman, Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia, said Thursday he and other committee members are crafting an Internet privacy bill this year.

He said privacy protection doesn't stop at letting consumers opt in or out of data collection - the approach typically favored by industry.

Rather, he said, his bill also would address a broader framework for privacy protection. He and Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida last had a similar bill in 2005 that didn't get traction.

Last month, Google Inc. unveiled plans to target ads based on consumer online behavior, and Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL already offer such behavioral targeting services.

"Any service that collects information about a customer must disclose how it's collected and how it's used," Boucher said.

©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

Congress to hold hearing on cable advertising

Apr 22, 2009

(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 ...

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 ...

Cable 'a la carte' gets boost

Feb 11, 2006

Consumers may find a happier ground with their cable companies now that the recent cable "a la carte" pricing report from the FCC favored allowing cable subscribers to purchase channels of their choosing.

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 ...

Gap grows on how to dish up cable

Nov 30, 2005

Freedom to choose what gets fed into a television set piece by piece is not only better for parents of small children, but also for cost-conscious consumers as well, or so the Federal Communications Commission's chief argued ...

Recommended for you

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

23 hours ago

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

( —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

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...

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 ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

( —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 ...