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[ NNSquad ] Carrier IQ Data Collection vs. Comcast and Time Warner

Carrier IQ Data Collection vs. Comcast and Time Warner

http://j.mp/t0HBii  (This message on Google+)

There's a big brouhaha about Carrier IQ data collection from cell phones.
So far, it appears to me that this really relates mostly to lack
of notification and user control, and that claims of "wiretapping"
seem to be misguided based on what is currently publicly known.

But if we're going to examine data collection policies, have you ever
thought about what happens every time you change channels or watch a program
on your handy cable TV set top box?

For example, here are excerpts from Comcast's privacy policy:

    http://j.mp/vco1fT  (Comcast)

    When you use our interactive or other transactional services such as
    video on demand, for example, our systems may automatically collect
    certain information about your use of these services. Most of this
    information is not personally identifiable information and it is
    simply used, for example, to carry out a particular request you make
    using your remote control, set-top box, or other equipment. This may
    include information required to change your television channel, review
    listings in an electronic program guide, pause or fast forward through
    certain on demand programs, or invoke a calling feature for our phone
    service, among other things.  It may also include other information
    such as the time you actually use our services and the use of other
    features of our services, and which menus and menu screens are used
    most often and the time spent using them.
    Our cable systems may collect anonymous and/or aggregate information
    using set-top boxes and other equipment.  We use this information to
    determine which programs are most popular, how many people watch a
    program to its conclusion, and whether people are watching
    commercials, for example. As described below under "How does Comcast
    use personally identifiable information and CPNI?", we may provide
    subscriber lists or certain anonymous and/or aggregate information to
    third parties working on our behalf such as audience measurement or
    market research firms, for example.

And for Time Warner Cable:

    http://j.mp/uPWvQN  (Time Warner)

    Our system, in delivering video services, may automatically log
    information concerning the use and performance of your TWC Equipment,
    including programming choices requested, the date and time of these
    choices, and information, services and products ordered from us or our
    Finally, in delivering a video service, we also track information
    about your use of TWC Equipment in a non-personally identifiable
    manner and we may combine this information with other non-personally
    identifiable information. This aggregate or anonymous information may
    be used for research and to determine which programming and
    commercials are being watched, which may assist us in determining the
    networks that should be delivered via switched digital, in paying our
    providers for video on demand programming, in informing us,
    advertisers and programmers how many impressions were received and
    generally making programming and advertising more relevant to our
    customers. None of this data will be used to personally identify you.

 - - -

This all looks a lot like what Carrier IQ is doing, except that both
Comcast and Time Warner definitely disclosed their practices (though
most subscribers never have read these disclosures, we can be pretty

The broader questions of anonymous data collection and control are way
too complex to address here right now.  But I thought it was worth
pointing out that Carrier IQ is definitely not operating in a vacuum.

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org 
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com 
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com 
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com