Charter Communications, one of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the U.S., recently sent letters to some of its 2.7 million customers with details of a new initiative. "Charter is billing its new web tracking program as an 'enhancement' for customers' web surfing experience. ... The pilot program is set to begin next month. 'Browsing the web can become more like flipping through your favorite magazine, where you see ads that are appealing to you and enhance your enjoyment and the utility of the experience,' the company's letters read." Charter says that it is piloting the program in four of its markets: Ft. Worth, Texas; San Luis Obispo, California; Oxford, Massachusetts, and Newtown, Connecticut. The "enhancement" will be difficult to refuse. "Users can opt out of the system, but have to give their full name and address to get an opt-out cookie. The process would have to be repeated for every browser on every computer in a home to block the service, and would have to be reset if cookies are ever deleted." Wired's Ryan Singel says the plan "effectively turns the ISP into the ultimate third-party tracking network." Charter's plan is similar to one developed in the U.K. by Phorm, "a London company with alleged spyware roots." But consumer outrage in Britain has prevented any ISPs from putting it in place.
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