February 23, 2015
It’s no secret that with more technology comes less privacy, but most of us are still uneasy about the idea of internet service providers (ISPs) and other companies spying on our online activity.
Now, it looks like a new service by AT&T could begin a movement to protect consumer privacy.
However (as you might expect from a service offered by a giant telecom corporation), this privacy will come at a cost.
AT&T calls the new service “U-verse with AT&T GigaPower,” which was rolled out in Kansas City and surrounding areas last week. It’s the “fastest Internet available from AT&T, featuring speeds up to 1 gigabit per second,” allowing users to, say, download 25 songs in less than one second, or load HD movies in less than 36 seconds.*
Pricing starts at $70 per month for U-verse High Speed Internet in eligible areas, which (not-so-coincidentally) is the same price as that of Google’s competing service, Google Fiber.
But here’s the difference: With AT&T’s gigabit service, customers can also add a $29 charge per month to opt out of its “Internet Preferences” program, preventing AT&T from collecting individuals’ web browsing history.
It’s certainly a start, although critics say that the extra $350 annual cost is too steep.
Yet it seems that AT&T’s new service charge for privacy could set a precedent for the industry. At the very least, it may open a dialogue about how user information and privacy are treated – right now, the rules regarding internet privacy are murky at best.
Consider Google’s information-collecting policy with Google Fiber, for example: Though Google Fiber does not track users’ browsing history, Google already tracks users across its own Web properties regardless of whether they also subscribe to Google Fiber (e.g. Google searches, YouTube videos).
* U-verse® with AT&T GigaPower(SM) Launches Today in Cities across the Kansas City Area, PR Newswire Association LLC. UBM plc.
† Brodkin, John. AT&T charges $29 more for gigabit fiber that doesn’t watch your Web browsing, Ars Technica. Condé Nast.