Lawmakers in Washington took a break from dealing with the economy this morning to examine one piece of controversial technology that big companies are quickly distancing themselves from - Deep Packet Inspection. The technology, which allows deep granular analysis of network traffic, grabbed the attention of privacy advocates when it was revealed that Internet Service Providers were interested in DPI as a means of delivering targeted advertising at their customers.
Now, big name ISPs are distancing themselves from DPI about as much as campaigning Republicans are distancing themselves from the Bush Administration. Testimony this morning from AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable executives were all very similar: we respect our customers privacy, customers should be given an opt-in- not opt-out - choice and companies who do use inspection technologies will need to be transparent about what they're collecting and how they're using that data.
The information, of course, could be very valuable for advertisers. But, everyone seems to agree that there should be a very slow approach to the adoption of anything related to deep packet inspection, including legislation out of Washington. In a statement, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, noted that new opportunities in Internet advertising can be good stimulus for the economy, help businesses better connect with customers and even assist consumers in finding what they need on the Internet:
So, that's the good side of advertising. On the other side, we surely need to be informed. Consumers need to be informed about what online entities are doing with their personal data information... I would say I hope we don't charge into legislating in this area before we do fully understand what is possible, what isn't possible, what is helpful and what isn't helpful and what would help the right type of opportunities, but not hinder the overall ways that we can have access to advertising.
Earlier this month, I raised the question of whether DPI was on its way out, seeing how one of the key companies in this space - Redwood City, Calif.-based NebuAd seemed to be falling apart. Its CEO resigned earlier this month and the company has laid off a “significant” number of employees. Still, one company doesn't paint a realistic picture of an entire industry. Phorm, a company with similar technology, has been given a green light by regulators in the U.K., who found the technology to be legal.