The #tracking and ad targeting associated with the gigabit service cannot be avoided using browser #privacy settings: as AT&T explained, the program “works independently of your browser’s privacy settings regarding #cookies, do-not-track and #private browsing.” In other words, AT&T is performing deep packet inspection, a controversial practice through which internet service providers, by virtue of their privileged position, monitor all the internet traffic of their subscribers and collect data on the content of those communications.
What if customers do not want to be spied on by their internet service providers? AT&T allows gigabit service subscribers to opt out — for a $29 fee per month.
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, AT&T is forgoing revenue by not spying on its customers, and it’s reasonable to charge them for that lost revenue. On the other hand, this sort of thing means that privacy becomes a luxury good. In general, I prefer to conceptualize privacy as a right to be respected and not a commodity to be bought and sold.