Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast)

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I do research on odd topics from time to time. Frequently my interests
on Tuesday are of a totally different polarity than on Monday. So I
probably have some odd surfing habits.

It is uncanny how frequently I turn on the tube, and within twenty
minutes there is an advertisement that is related to what I was
surfing for earlier in the day. At first I thought it was just a
coincidence, but then it occurs to me that often these advertisements
are inconsistent with the audience for the program I am watching.

Can any of you Security Engineering folks confirm that what appears to
be happening is in fact happening? That my surfing habits are being
stored in a database, and that a targeted advertising engine is
consulting this database real-time?

I know it sounds disillusion, but the more I think about it, the more
I realize that the technology required to do this is already there.
Gluing it together to accomplish this would be fairly trivial if we
were talking about a simple keyword search for example.


Re: Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast) wrote:

 > Re: Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast)

Certainly there was a big stink about the UK mass market ISPs planning
to do this recently.  From what I've heard of the way Comcast behaves,
they are a mass market ISP.

I don't think the UK ISPs had the technology to control cable TV feeds.

I don't know if the UK ISPs backed down in the end.

If you look at the documentation for internet based video feed servers,
you will find that most of the configurability is about the advertising,
but I don't know if digital cable TV has the ability to customise
advertising on a subscriber basis (if all the adverts were synchronised,
they could probably use the data streams as advert streams, rather than
programme streams, in the commercial breaks.

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It's not really a security issue.  All you need is a transparent proxy
and the ability to customise the cable TV feed at the individual
consumer level.

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Most of the cookies on your machine are planted with this purpose in
mind, but for internet advertising streams.  That's basically what
Doubleclick and Google are about.

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I forget the name of the proposed UK system, but, if you search the web,
you should be able to find out their basic strategy for categorizing
users, which does, I seem to remember, depend on matching keywords to

Re: Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast)

  "David Woolley" writes:

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"Phorm".  There were several good articles recently on The Register:


   "We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors,
    we have borrowed it from our descendants."

Re: Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast)

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maybe some ISPs do, most don't.

But: they all can. And this is the reason for the TOR project: /

Bitte beachten Sie auch die Rückseite dieses Schreibens!

Re: Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast) wrote:

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i am sure that's possible.
but people who use anonymous proxies usually want to hide where they are going
so the destination site is not illegal itself, only access to it is not allowed
for them.

on the other hand: if you have an exploitable website - or server or desktop, it
won't take long
for it to be infected and abused.

that's what spammers and other cyber-criminals do for a living.
Find exploitable services in order to make money.

but a little paranoia never hurts...


Re: Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast) wrote:

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The best approach is probably to look for Comcast's advertising to its
clients, as they will only do this sort of thing if they can charge
premium rates for the targetted advertising.

There is some risk that they only sell by "word of mouth", to agencies,
or they use the typical large account B2B tactic of having a web site
that says nothing, but is just there to encourage direct contact with a
salesman.  However most web based companies that use the advertising
funded model do have sites that explain their business model to
advertisers.  However, productions costs for banner advertising and TV
adverts are miles apart!

If they are a public company, their annual report or investor web page
ought to be good places to look, as well.

Re: Are ISPs Profiling Browsing Habits? (Comcast)

On Aug 11, 4:11=A0am, David Woolley
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It should be pretty easy to confirm.  Calling them up and pretending
to be a potential advertising customer might get me the info I need,
but doubtful. Very few sales people can be expected to understand the
nature of the service they are selling.

I could also verify it with a couple of computers with video capture.
Just point them at the tube at a couple of different subscriber
locations on a constant channel and have the machines surf different
demographically significant content for a while.  I would need several
volunteers though, and finding 4 or 5 Americans willing to separate
themselves from the shared dillusion for a few days is a damned hard
thing to do.

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