Comcast acknowledged Wednesday that it had begun tracking and storing information on its cable Internet service subscribers' Web usage, but said it will end the practice immediately in response to customer concerns.
The announcement followed press reports that Comcast was using Inktomi software to track Web sites popular with its customers. Comcast planned to keep cached copies of frequently visited Web pages on proxy servers to speed load times, according to the Associated Press.
Comcast had been recording customer IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and correlating them to visited URLs (Uniform Resource Locators). The company said its tracking began six weeks ago, when Comcast parted ways with bankrupt At Home Corp. Comcast served notice in August that it planned to terminate its agreement with At Home and build its own broadband network.
News of the tracking prompted an outcry from privacy advocates, who argued that the information could be abused for advertising or other commercial purposes or subpoenaed by law enforcement officials.
Comcast maintains that its subscriber agreement gives it permission to track user activity. The company was using the information only in aggregate to optimize its network performance and would not share customers' personal information except as required by law, Comcast said.
The company will immediately stop storing customer information "in order to completely reassure our customers that the privacy of their information is secure," Comcast said in a statement.