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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The advertising industry has come too far...

When it comes to the online advertising industry, consumers aren't exactly a trusting bunch. That's understood, given the laundry list of companies that have treated user PCs like a battlefield and used consumer privacy as a punching bag. So when a company by the name of NebuAD stated they'd be deploying a new hardware device within ISP networks that would track user behavior, consumers got nervous.


Consumer nerves weren't exactly soothed when reports emerged that in addition to using surveillance hardware to monitor your browsing habits, the company was also involved in an ad injection system that allowed ISPs to insert their own ads into websites (regardless of the existing advertising deals struck between webmaster and other advertisers).

According to Dykes, the company is working with "Multiple tens of ISPs," who have installed, free of charge, deep packet inspection hardware on the ISP network. Deep packet inspection hardware, as the name suggests, analyzes the data and/or header part of a packet, and can track data type based on any number of pre-set criteria.

Originally designed for security purposes, DPI recently found new life in both NebuAD's implementation and in implementation by ISPs as a way to identify and throttle p2p traffic. Deep Packet Inspection is also expected to be at the heart of AT&T's proposed piracy filters.

NebuAD's hardware (each device can handle 10-30k users) tracks every website an ISP user visits, at what speed, and for how long. ISPs pay nothing, do nothing, and in return for the information, get checks mailed to them monthly. In an age where ISPs are terrified of being dumb pipe providers, and are trying to make an additional buck through everything from DNS redirection to car sales, such a user-invisible profit stream is going to prove hugely appealing.

NebuAd doesn't map the URLs visited, just the user interest (think of it as a tick-mark against that interest).

Texas-based ISP Redmoon managed to annoy the entire Internet after they began forcing ads atop existing advertising arrangements. ISP users were not informed, nor were they allowed to opt-out.
The company is not injecting ads over existing advertising relationships, though there are companies who are.

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