House Committee Questions Google, Microsoft On Tracking

    August 4, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

How major Internet players follow their users and utilize their activity became the focus of a letter of inquiry sent by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to a number of companies.

A large group of online services and network providers received a letter from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about their data collection practices. The Committee wants to know more about how those companies use the Internet activities of people to customize advertising for them.

The Committee’s interest extends beyond their inquiry of Embarq Corporation’s efforts to test such tracking and advertising. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable received this latest letter, along with a number of other related firms.

Recipients may be squirming at the pointed questions submitted from the Committee, as they sought responses on tailoring ads to Internet surfing; the protection of personal data, such as health and financial information; and where and how many Internet users may have been affected by the practice.

The Committee also asked if consumers were notified of the practice, and whether or not they were given the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out. Such questioning may indicate an interest on Capitol Hill in finally looking at privacy legislation related to online advertising, something that likely has the companies in question spurring their lobbyists to work early this morning.

Presently, Internet companies have realtively free rein over keeping and using consumer data, as privacy concerns bore no impact on deals like Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick. In an age of digital identity theft happening regularly, people may be starting to see a need for a modicum of government regulation in the area of online consumer information.