AT&T has decided to end its controversial program called Internet Preferences. This program analyzed the web browsing habits of their home internet subscribers in order to serve the targeted number of ads. AT&T has also confirmed that they will end targeted ads and data collection.
“To simplify our offering for our customers, we plan to end the optional Internet Preferences advertising program related to our fastest Internet speed tiers. As a result, all customers on these tiers will receive the best rate we have available for their speed tier in their area. We’ll begin communicating this update to customers early next week,” AT&T spokesperson said in a press release.
AT&T introduced the Internet Preferences program in the year 2013 as a part of their GigaPower fiber internet service. Consequently, AT&T subscribers, who wished to select the lowest rate package, had to opt for the traffic-scanning program. The remaining subscribers, who did not opt for the traffic-scanning program, had to pay $29 per month for internet access alone. Moreover, AT&T subscribers had to pay an amount of over $60 per month, if they wanted to receive phone or TV service.
Reports suggest that the Internet Preferences program used deep packet inspection to scan the web browsing details of their subscribers. This program allowed AT&T to collect the web-browsing data of subscribers even when they have activated options such as private browsing, do-not-track and privacy settings for cookies. However, AT&T has not shared any details on how they are planning to scan customer traffic.
AT&T has also stated that they will use “sunset the Internet Preferences program beginning in October,” but they have not shed any information on why they are making this change. Reports further indicate that the Internet Preferences program was not a big success for AT&T and this might be the reason for the end of this program.
“Your ISP handles all of your network traffic. That means it has a broad view of all of your unencrypted online activity—when you are online, the websites you visit, and the apps you use. If you have a mobile device, your provider can track your physical location throughout the day in real time,” FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler wrote.
“Even when data is encrypted, your broadband provider can piece together significant amounts of information about you—including private information such as a chronic medical condition or financial problems—based on your online activity.”