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    Wired News: Under Pressure, ISP Admits Secret Web Snooping in Kansas

    Wired News’ Threat Level blog reports that “Internet service provider Embarq eavesdropped on the web surfing habits of 26,000 customers in Kansas without notifying them personally, as part of its test of new, controversial advertising technology that profiles users.” The secret surveillance uses deep packet inspection technology, which allows and Internet Service Provider to read the contents of an e-mail or figure out what Web site a customer is visiting in order to display more targeted ads. There are numerous privacy, civil liberty, and legality questions (pdf) about this sort of surreptitious tracking of Internet users.

    Ryan Singel reports:

    Embarq, an offshoot from Sprint, tested the service in Gardner, Kansas, saying it was their smallest facility. The secret test ended earlier this year, though no dates were given for when it started or stopped. The letter also disclosed that 15 people from the region opted out, even though the company didn’t notify the affected subscribers that the technology was being tested — it just added a paragraph to its privacy policy.

    Telecom subcommittee head Reps. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts), watchdog groups and law professors have questioned whether the technology violates federal privacy laws, including the wiretapping statute.

    I previously blogged about these secret surveillance programs and privacy and civil liberty questions that surround them. In the U.S., Charter Communications, CenturyTel Inc., WOW!, Broadstripe, and Metro Provider have all used such controversial systems to track customers, according to a recent report (pdf) by Free Press and Public Knowledge.

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