Comcast Corp., responding to reports that said the MSO has begun tracking cable modem subscribers' Web browsing activities without notifying them, said it does not share that information, except as required by law. The company also said it would discontinue the practice immediately to ensure the privacy of its high-speed customers.
"Comcast respects the privacy of all our subscribers and is committed to fully protect their rights," MSO President Stephen Burke said, in a prepared statement. "Comcast has not shared and will not share personal information about where our subscribers go on the Web, either for any internal purpose or with any outside party, except as required by law."
Burke added that Comcast reviews information in aggregate form to help the company manage network performance and "to ensure an optimal Internet network experience for our subscribers."
The practice of collecting cable modem usage data is not all that unusual, but serves as an important method to monitor the traffic running on a given network. AT&T Broadband, which is slated to merge with Comcast, manages and monitors its networks to check bandwidth usage for its 1.5 million cable modem subscribers, said AT&T Broadband spokeswoman Sarah Eder. "We look at overall bandwidth…so we can best manage our networks. We don't monitor individual usage. We monitor bits and bytes, and that's it."
AT&T Broadband would only reveal individual information to the proper authorities under court order, Eder said.
Comcast, which launched its own high-speed network six weeks ago in the wake of Excite@Home Corp.'s demise, said it has stored IP and URL information temporarily, but that data has never been linked to individual subscribers, and is automatically purged to protect customer privacy.
The company said it will stop storing that data immediately "in order to completely reassure our customers that the privacy of their information is secure."
According to the Associated Press, the nation's two largest ISPs, America Online and Earthlink, purposely do not collect subscriber Web browsing data in order to avoid potential privacy infringements.