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ISPs enter the targeted ad game

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Ms. Cooper’s colleagues take up this issue in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this week. After a recent scandal where British Telecom reportedly tracked user data without alerting its customers, Congress wants to iron out what American ISPs are allowed to monitor and how much they need to disclose.

Already, 70 percent of Web users are aware that their Internet footsteps may be tracked for advertising, according to a TrustE survey cited by CNET. Yet just 23 percent are comfortable with such online tracking, even if companies agree not to share the information.

Even if Web users accept some online snooping, few expect ISPs to be the culprits, says Wendy Seltzer, a follow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

“There is a difference between going to a site that you know will be including advertising and going to an ISP who you expect to be a simple carrier,” she says. People can easily choose whether or not to use Google sites, but it’s much more difficult to switch ISPs.

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