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Comcast: We won’t sell browser history, and you can opt out of targeted ads

current events

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current events

Comcast: We won’t sell browser history, and you can opt out of targeted ads published by nherting
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Posted on 2017-03-31
Writer Description: current events
This writer has written 195 articles.

Comcast today said it has "no plans" to sell its customers' individual Web browsing histories, but Comcast can still deliver personalized ads based on its customers' browsing history. Comcast, the nation's largest home Internet provider, said it will continue to offer customers a way to opt out of targeted ads.

"We do not sell our broadband customers’ individual Web browsing history," Comcast Chief Privacy Officer Gerard Lewis wrote in a blog post today. "We did not do it before the FCC’s rules were adopted, and we have no plans to do so."


Comcast operates its own advertising network, so it doesn't need to share individuals' browsing history with third parties in order to serve targeted ads. Instead, Comcast can use its customers' browsing history to sell targeted ads. Businesses pay Comcast to have their advertising reach people who are more likely to buy their products, but only Comcast would know exactly who those customers are.

Comcast sells targeted ads on its own websites "and other digital properties," which would include NBC and various regional sports networks.

Comcast doesn't share customer information regarding banking, children, and health "unless we first obtain their affirmative, opt-in consent," Lewis wrote.

"If a customer does not want us to use other, non-sensitive data to send them targeted ads, we offer them the ability to opt out of receiving such targeted ads," Lewis wrote. That "non-sensitive data" includes Web browsing information, a Comcast spokesperson told Ars. But any Web browsing that relates to sensitive data like the topics above would fall under the more stringent opt-in category.

Comcast said that there has been a lot of "misinformation and inaccurate statements... made in the last week," so it is "revis[ing] our privacy policy to make more clear and prominent that, contrary to the many inaccurate statements and reports, we do not sell our customers’ individual Web browsing information to third parties and that we do not share sensitive information unless our customers have affirmatively opted in to allow that to occur."

Comcast also said today that it complies with various federal and state laws regarding privacy and data security.

But Comcast and other ISPs won't have to comply with Federal Communications Commission rules that would have required opt-in consent before using or sharing browsing and app usage history. That's because of House and Senate votes to eliminate the FCC rules, an action likely to be signed by President Donald Trump.

Comcast, other Internet providers, and their lobby groups recently signed a voluntary pledge to require opt-in consent before using or disclosing the most sensitive information, but the pledge only requires opt-out systems for Web browsing history. That's similar to the rules applied to online companies like Google and Facebook, though Democrats in Congress supported the FCC's stricter rules for ISPs because the companies can see each customer's entire browsing history. Democrats also argued that consumers should have a greater expectation of privacy with Internet service because it's a subscription-based offering and difficult to switch Internet providers.

Republicans argued that stricter rules for ISPs would confuse consumers and stifle competition in the advertising market. They said the Federal Trade Commission should regulate ISP privacy instead of the FCC but did not take any immediate action to replace the FCC rules that are being eliminated.



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