AT&T has recently launched a 1 gigabit-per-second service in Austin, Texas and Kansas City, Missouri, but there is a catch. In order, for users to not be tracked as they surf the web they must pay a higher monthly service price, or as AT&T is phrasing it, a discount to the people who are okay with being tracked.
“AT&T’s new service uses searches terms entered, Web pages visited, and links clicked. The tracking remains in effect even if you clear cookies, use an ad block program, or switch on a browser’s do-not-track settings. The company uses the data it collects to help advertisers target ads on Web pages, email messages or direct mail” – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Thomas Gryta from the Wall Street Journal.
Many people are upset about this, primarily due to the fact that most companies offer privacy options for free. Some people think that it should be illegal for a company to do such thing.
“Lax regulation allows communications providers to charge for safeguards that consumers previously assumed they would receive by default, said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington” – Elizabeth Dwoskin and Thomas Gryta from the Wall Street Journal.
However, from an ethical and legal standpoint it seems that what AT&T is doing is perfectly okay. Users are not forced to buy the GigaPower service by AT&T. If enough people are upset about the tracking they should find a different company to purchase their service from.
Economic thinking we lead us to believe that if that many consumers are upset by the AT&T tracking, then AT&T would be forced to change their business model in order to stay competitive.
Gigabit-per-second Internet service is very uncommon right now, making it seem like AT&T is safe from competition in the mean time, but as it becomes more prevalent they may be forced to make some adjustments.
Only time will tell if AT&T will end up changing their pricing model due to consumer complaints or outside competition. However, I would be willing to allow a company to track my web browsing habits for a discount on my bill. As long as you do not have any to hide, there does not seem to be anything to worry about. Also, the user information that is being tracked is being shared with advertisers so they can get a better understanding of consumer interest, rather than being used by the government to track users for potential crimes.