NebuAd: From phenom to pariah to past tense?

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Embroiled in Congressional controversy over privacy violations, faced with continued defections by its one-time star struck clients, and having just lost its CEO , DPI neo-pariah NebuAd now says it'll put its ISP tracking software on the back burner. As in, switched off. Cold. Toss that mess in the garbage can.

While it once billed itself as, "the leading provider of 3rd generation consumer-centric behavioral targeting solutions that are based on web-wide behavior," the Silicon Valley start up is now planning to "broaden its focus" into traditional web ad segments, the company told the Washington Post. Right.

Earlier this summer, NebuAd's deep packet inspection software, which tracks web-surfers' every click and can be used to help design a targeted-ad campaign for them, was all the rave. Then, ISPs like Charter, CenturyTel and Embarq started to ramp up testing ... and the furor over privacy issues and potential wiretapping violations began like a tropical storm gathering slowly in the distance.

Congressmen wrote letters to companies asking them to put tests--some of which already had begun without consumer consent--on hold. Then, they scheduled hearings on Capitol Hill, wrote more letters requesting information from a slew of ISPs, and brought in NebuAd's Grand Poobah, CEO Bob Dykes, for a personal grilling. Privacy advocates got very involved and the industry finally realized that a Cat 5 privacy hurricane was blowing their way. Seven ISPs agreed to put off their trials indefinitely. That's whoops-speak for "get that thing outta here, it's killing us."

"The sense I get is the air is out of the tires as it relates to targeted advertising through deep-packet inspection," Robb Topolski, a technology consultant, told the Post. "The users have made it very clear that they don't want any part of ISP monitoring regimes that watch everything they do and say on the Internet."

Added Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, NebuAd "seriously underestimated the privacy concerns."

No duh. Will NebuAd be able to bring its DPI back to market? Not likely. And, that's a good thing.--Jim

For more:
- see the Washington Post story

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