AT&T Pledges To Protect Internet Users Privacy

    September 25, 2008

AT&T is calling on all companies that track and collect data on Internet users search and browsing activity to give consumers more control over how their online habits are collected and used.

"While we have no immediate plans to offer online behavioral advertising we believe that a key dimension of any such program would be to give customers significant control over collection and use of their search and Web browsing data for online advertising purposes, by requiring their advance affirmative consent," said Dorothy Attwood, Chief Privacy Officer, AT&T, testifying before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and  Transportation.

"Over the past several months we have talked with consumers about what they want and expect from any company using their online information to provide behavioral advertising," Attwood said. "Based on that input, we pledge to uphold a few simple principles in the design of any online behavioral advertising program we may deliver in the future."

Attwood said AT&T would seek permission from its customers before collecting and using their information for online behavioral advertising. AT&T would have transparent information about what the company would collect and use for online behavioral advertising.

Customers will be able to opt in or out of any AT&T behavioral advertising program. Their identities will be protected no matter what choice they make about being part of any behavioral advertising campaign.

Attwood pointed out that privacy issues are not only related to ISPs. "While this pledge represents AT&T’s commitment, there are many other companies with access to information about online users, many of which collect large volumes of data every day for advertising purposes without the knowledge or affirmative consent of those users."

"Only when all companies that track and collect data for the purpose of delivering behavioral advertising — including search engines, advertising networks and ISPs — adopt similar commitments to transparency, customer control and privacy will Internet users have more confidence in the privacy of their online experience," said Attwood.