All eyes are on AT&T after the carrier launched its gigabit fiber-to-the-home Internet service in Kansas City, pricing part of the service based on a user's privacy preferences. Interested users can access the carrier's "GigaPower" Internet service for $70 per month in exchange for providing the carrier with their web browsing information and receiving targeted ads based on their web browsing activity. For users interested in keeping their web browsing information private, the user must pay nearly $30 more per month for additional privacy options than users who are willing to provide the carrier with their web browsing information. However, the carrier can still collect a user's web browsing information for "other purposes," even if the user elected to pay additional fees per month to keep his or her web browsing information private.
Are "Pay for Privacy" Programs the Future of Gigabit Fiber-to-the-Home Internet Services?
While other fiber-to-the-home Internet service providers have yet to follow suit, at least one other service provider, Google, is well known for detailed tracking of user access to its online services. Notably, however, Google's fiber-to-the-home Internet service, Google Fiber, does not monitor its users' web browsing activity or charge its users based on the privacy settings they choose using Google Fiber.
The carrier's ability to monitor its users' web browsing activity for "other purposes," raises more questions than answers because "other purposes" include, but are not limited to:
- Communicating service updates, additional offers, and promotions;
- "First party" advertising resulting from preferences or interests a user expresses on any affiliated website or store, or from using the carrier's other products or services; and
- Conducting research and analysis for maintaining, protecting, and developing its Internet fiber-optic Internet service.
It's not clear what paying more per month for additional privacy really buys users interested in a carrier's gigabit fiber-to-the-home Internet service, but it's clear that at least one Internet service provider has priced the cost of additional privacy options.
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For additional information, please contact the author or a member of Polsinelli's Data Center and Infrastructure practice.