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AT&T Sends Mixed Message On Behavioral Advertising

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the reach-out-and-shush-someone dept.

Privacy 27

Ian Lamont writes "An advertising company that runs a 'targeting marketplace' and partner AT&T are playing down the telecommunications giant's use of its services after AT&T's chief privacy officer told a House subcommittee yesterday that the company does not engage in behavioral advertising. The AT&T executive testified (PDF) to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet that AT&T would not use behavioral advertising methods without informed customer consent. However, AudienceScience, a company that records 'billions of behavioral events daily' has apparently worked for AT&T since 2005. After the hearing, AudienceScience removed a client testimonial relating to AT&T from its website, so 'all the appropriate parties [have] consistent messaging,' its CEO said. An AT&T spokesman also said that the testimony was talking about AT&T's role as an ISP, not an advertiser."

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800 numbers and LL Bean (5, Interesting)

kris_lang (466170) | more than 4 years ago | (#27708167)

In the past, L.L. Bean and American Express all experimented with greeting customers by name when they called. They did this by linking the ANI information received on their incoming 1-800-telephonenumber line with a computerized database. People were creeped out to have a person greet them by their name before they'd even said "Hello", and both American Express and L.L. Bean stopped doing this. Affinity marketing campaigns also did this and the FTC regulated this away, partially.

link to ftc pdf, [] see page 42 and other.

What ATT is trying to hide about what they've already done is steps beyond this.


Tunneling and NoScript (3, Funny)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#27708231)

All of this is such a non issue. SSH tunnel your HTTP and use NoScript to keep third party tracking cookies from loading.

Slashdot users are fucking bastards (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27708233)

Admit you are all morbidly obese nerds who use linux and can't get laid. You also have aspergers syndrome and you watch this video obsessively all day []

Re:Slashdot users are fucking bastards (2, Funny)

enrgeeman (867240) | more than 5 years ago | (#27708713)

unfortunately that youtube link isn't a rickroll.

Fantastic (1)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 4 years ago | (#27708237)

What next? Ad's beamed into my dreams?

Re:Fantastic (2, Funny)

Almonday (564768) | more than 4 years ago | (#27708277)

Only on TV and radio... and in magazines... and movies, and at ballgames, and on buses, and milk cartons, and T-shirts, and bananas, and written in the sky. But not in dreams, no sirree.

Re:Fantastic (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#27708297)

Why do you think that telcoms are bidding so enthusiastically for the 10^19hz spectrum allocation?

Re:Fantastic (1)

gaderael (1081429) | more than 5 years ago | (#27709467)

Teacher: Good morning, class. I trust you've all prepared for today's final exam.
Fry: Uh, excuse me? I missed a few lectures. Uh, what subject is this?
Teacher: Ancient Egyptian algebra.
[She points to the blackboard, revealing it is filled with Egyptian hieroglyphs. Fry gasps.]
Fry: What a nightmare!
Teacher: Mister Fry, are those your underpants? [Fry looks down and sees he is wearing only his briefs. He stands up and the whole class laughs and points. He gasps.] Young man, I think it's time you learned a lesson about Lightspeed brand briefs.
[She pulls down a poster showing the briefs.]
Announcer: (voice-over) Lightspeed fits today's active lifestyle. Whether you're on the job ... [Fry suddenly appears in a company meeting wearing just Lightspeeds.] ... or having fun. [He sits with a woman on a bed.] Lightspeed briefs, style and comfort for the discriminating crotch.

[Like an advertisement, a pair of lightspeeds appear in front of a flashing background.]

[Cut to: Fry's Bedroom. The dream ends and Fry suddenly wakes up.]

Futurama Madhouse []

"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#27708299)

What is "Mixed Message" supposed to mean? When testifying to Congress, witnesses are required by law to tell the truth. Saying you don't do something when you do is lying.

I understand that Congress does whatever AT&T wants (wiretapping is power), calls whatever AT&T does whatever AT&T wants. But since when did Slashdot become corporate mass media, afraid to call lying "lying"?

Re:"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 5 years ago | (#27708489)

Apparently it's the Industry Standard term...

Re:"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27708807)

What is "Mixed Message" supposed to mean? When testifying to Congress, witnesses are required by law to tell the truth. Saying you don't do something when you do is lying.

Actually if you're under oath isn't it actually called perjury?

Re:"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27708813)

But since when did Slashdot become corporate mass media, afraid to call lying "lying"?

Corporations owe no allegiance to the truth but sometimes the interesting question is why they're lying. And why are they so anxious to erase their tracks? Liability or regulation...they're not worried about competition. The US market in telecommunications isn't a free market, it's a cartel.

Figure out what they're afraid you'll know why they're lying. Like the oil companies. They're keeping up the PR assault to try and distract people from the fact they're throttling domestic oil production in the face of lower prices. No point extracting expensive oil at $47 a barrel when they can still make a margin buying from the Saudis. So waive the flag to distract from the uncomfortable reality that big oil is willing to let our national security suffer if they can make a margin on the status quo. And air those slick commercials with the PR gal telling us how they're doing so much for domestic exploration.

That's just being sleazy and two-faced. What AT&T is displaying is fear. They're afraid of something. This isn't a PR embarrassment, there's liability, serious liability. Hand in the cookie jar, massive regulation kind of liability. Maybe they were using non-identifiable data aggregates from the wiretaps as a marketing tool? It'll be something like that.

It's always sparks my curiosity to discover what's in a hole someone is anxious to fill in.

Re:"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (2, Insightful)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27709547)

While you may have more at stake here, I agree with your overall concept, but not as vehemently as you.

What I will say is this:
ATT+marketing/advertising==up to their least that deep. Period. Really.

Any telecom, not just ATT that would deny something like this, I would automatically be suspicious of what they are saying. Sorry, but 'track records', and all that....

Re:"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27710931)

being so curious, and yet only having to look in the mirror? Our ambition to find truth, is perhaps the first thing that they would try to put a stop to.

Re:"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#27712365)

You're right about corporate lying. That's why US oil corps flood the info markets (like news) with lies about domestic oil production.

The amount of remaining US reserves that could be tapped is very small. Opening it up would put new oil on the market starting at earliest 10 years from now, and probably 20 before a significant fraction of its total contribution. Its contribution would last maybe another 10-20 years. The tiny new US amount in the global supply would not affect prices by more than a cent or two a barrel, even at scarcity prices around $150-200 per barrel.

The amount of extra oil we'd have if we just kept all our car tires properly inflated would exceed the total annual contribution of all potential new US oil even once it's at peak production in 20-30 years from now. Any number of other conservation measures would do more to free up more oil, and to reduce prices.

And of course that extra oil would do more intolerable damage to the environment. The exploration, drilling and delivery destroys ecosystems in the already stressed environments, especially marine fisheries we've already fished to exhaustion. The burning would further increase how far we've already gone past our atmosphere's capacity to absorb the pollution, which we should be substantially reducing instead of increasing even a little. The extra benefit would be insignificant in our huge global energy market, but even its relatively tiny addition to the pollution would be 100% too much, since we're already producing way too much.

Oil corps know all that. But they want new leases (dirt cheap from the government, instead of compensating the public for exploiting all that public territory). Not for drilling, as they haven't even explored for new oil on the large majority of all the leases they've already got, but idled. The new leases they want are for harvesting methane hydrate [] deposits from ocean floors. Even though that "frozen gas" would be even more damaging to our atmosphere (methane is 17x more potent a Greenhouse pollutant than is CO2). They know new oil leases would take decades to pay off and net just a small amount for a short time, but they're using the idea as propaganda to get even more dangerous methane hydrate into production, instead of working on alternates (like clean/scalabe geothermal power [] ).

Because corporations lie to get what they want. They're not people (though legally they have the "rights" of "persons"), so there's no conscience or morality involved, only cost:benefit*risk. The oil corps are lying about "drill, baby, drill", just as they've lied about everything else they ever wanted to.

Re:"Mixed Message" = "Lying" (1)

Jack9 (11421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27709543)

Most behavioral targeting campaigns (online) are pure BS. You get at BEST an 90% miss rate (meaning you can't determine anything of use) from a behavioral perspective. Other metrics are much more reliable. Contextual (where people have visited), Geo (where their IP resolves near), and frequency of various acts/visits. Lots of companies do this. In particular, in online advertising it's assumed to happen. A lot of companies claim to do "behavioral targeting" but can't prove or even technically describe how they do behavioral targeting (compared to the other types described) making the message mixed because it wasn't "true" to begin with. This depends on how you want to spin it of course. You could accurately say that a company is still growing the ability to perform behavioral analysis (from serve logs), they just can't do it in time or with enough accuracy (*currently*) to matter to advertisers/publishers at time of service. Mixed message isn't always the same as lying, it typically means layered misdirection lies. How accurate you believe it to be, depends on how you want to spin it.

Let's take a deep breath and wait. (3, Informative)

Pahalial (580781) | more than 5 years ago | (#27708545)

We don't have all the info yet. All we know so far is that AT&T is a client of "MEC Interaction" and that this company has then used Audience Science. There's no way to know for sure yet that they were placing ads based on DPI, or giving info about their customers' browsing habits - it is every single bit as probable that their advertising firm merely placed ads with the behavioral-based advertising network.

Now, there's still a slight disconnect between her testimony (which lambasts behavioral advertising as a whole) and the company contracting Audience Science via a third party, but it's extremely possible that this is being interpreted in the worst possible light [to sell pageviews?] Grain of salt, people.

Re:Let's take a deep breath and wait. (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 5 years ago | (#27708591)

We don't have all the info yet.

Pshaw! This is the Internet! Why should that stop us from passing judgment!

Pretty Straightforward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27708631)

Guys, clearly AT&T does not use Behavioral Advertising. (In any other context then when they are advertising) ....wait, what?

spin , spin, I'm dizzy (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27708775)

After the hearing, AudienceScience removed a client testimonial relating to AT&T from its website, so 'all the appropriate parties [have] consistent messaging,' its CEO said.

read 'So the lie becomes the truth'.

Pick your meme.... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27709591)

Well, just check with the 'Ministry of Truth'...

Or, as we all know, "The cake is a lie."

Is this a good place for a 'In Sovie)(&)(*&)&%&E%

Gn4Ja (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27708777)

both bel1eved t4at

Is this just Phorm... (1)

awrowe (1110817) | more than 5 years ago | (#27710867)

without the name? It looks like exactly the same thing a few british ISPs are trying to implement at the moment - and the EU court of human rights is getting involved in that one.

NSA Subsidiary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27711085)

AT&T - NSA subsidiary and IT department to the rich and powerful - isn't going to stop even after it owns your bitch ass. In fact, that's kinda the whole point.

Malox Moment (1)

olddotter (638430) | more than 5 years ago | (#27711367)

Somebody had to clean their underwear. Is the testimonial still in google cache? If so some people should print it out and mail it to all congressmen at present for the testimony.

packet inspection sickens me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27712527)

I work for a data transfer agnecy, and we are HEAVILY regulated as to how we handle customers data packets - they are SACROSANT to inspect one would get me FIRED immediately. there are a few people who are allowed to inspecdt the contents of a data packet, but they are stricly controlled and supervised.

ofcourse, by now you've realised I'm talking about physicall data packets (letters and parcels) but I cant beleive we are allowing our digital data packets to be exploited to such an extent when there are volumes of law already existing protecting our privacy for simple words on paper data packets.

-youre local postie

Never mind the advertising... (1)

budr (111245) | more than 5 years ago | (#27713407)

An AT&T spokesman also said that the testimony was talking about AT&T's role as an ISP, not an advertiser."

Oh, well then, I feel much better now. NOT.

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