Charging for privacy is the new business frontier for internet service providers, proves AT&T, the American multinational telecommunications corporation. The service provider has begun to charge its GigaPower customers to pay more if they do not want to get spied for what they do online.
AT&T’s GigaPower is a superfast internet service that lets the customers download 25 songs in a fraction of a second. It relies on fiber-optic cables that carry data faster than the traditional copper wires.
The speed comes at a cost - $139 per month. Clubbing the television and phone services, the cost will further add up to another $60. If you wish for a cheaper cost for the same service, it is available at $110, however, you may want to let AT&T monitor your browsing habits.
How Privacy is turned into Money?
AT&T would simply trade the data of browsing habits of its customers to the advertisers by directing the web browsing history to an in-house traffic scanning program. The program will analyze the data and comes out with results that will help the advertisers to send targeted ads to the websites customers visit, send personalized emails to their inbox or even direct mails to their home addresses. Naturally, advertisers will pay more when their ads are heavily targeted only to those who are interested in their products.
Google too does a similar spying by monitoring the activities customers do on Google services. However, AT&T’s monitoring is massive, covering all the activities of customers. For a consolation, the company promises that they will not reveal the personal information received to any third party.
The Science Behind it
Although there are no definite answers of the exact technology AT&T makes use to route the browsing histories, tech geeks predict it to be Deep Packet Inspection. It simply means that the traffic from a computer would go through the AT&T systems before reaching the rest of the internet. Hence, changing your browsing settings, clearing cookies, using ad blocks, nothing would keep your web browsing data private.
AT&T stays away from press to provide an exact information on technology, except that ‘they use various methods to collect web browsing information’. The company also says that it is looking at everything except encrypted traffic, i.e., websites having HTTPS. However, there is every possibility that AT&T can even watch the HTTPS. AT&T can recognize that the customer has sent HTTPS traffic to a specific website. Opening of an encrypted link to a shopping website followed by email is a hint that the customer has actually purchased something.
Is it Legally Viable?
As far as the legal aspects of privacy are analyzed, AT&T gets it right. The internet laws in United States permits the service providers for the privacy breach if the activity is already informed to the customer. Here, the customer who sign up for $110 GigaPower are known of the fact that they are being monitored. Those who do not want to be monitored will opt for $139 service pack.
The company targets those who die for high speed, which is a prominent requisite in today’s world. Besides the online gamers and those who use video services, there are even medical needs like teleradiology that demands faster internet.
GigaPower is already on the run across six markets in US, including Texas, Missouri, and North Carolina. Expansion plans have 10 more markets in sight for the coming months. This new business strategy is soon to be adopted by the rest of the service providers, which means it is high time for the customers to decide what they value more – privacy or money.