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They are watching what you are watching

March 13, 2008 |  9:50 am

Tv If you are a Los Angeles-area Charter cable TV subscriber, perhaps it's time to become more selective about your channel-surfing habits. Charter Communications, with 330,000 customers from Malibu to Riverside, will start selling data on the viewing habits of all its subscribers to ratings firm Nielsen Co., reports Meg James.

This mass adoption into the Nielsen family means that Nielsen and its customers, mostly TV networks and advertisers, can tell when a channel is turned on, whether a program is being recorded and how long it takes before a viewer switches away from a commercial. The Nielsen folks love the idea because it will give a much more detailed and broader picture of TV use.

Charter said its cable customers' privacy would be protected and their identities kept confidential. But many privacy advocates are not so sure, saying Charter subscribers should have the option of deciding whether their viewing habits could be sold.

"Where does it stop? The company could promise anonymity today and then change their privacy policies tomorrow," said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego.

Although all the new data will give TV and ad execs a better idea of what people are watching, it still won't explain why anyone is watching "Three's Company" reruns at 3:30 in the morning.

-- Jesus Sanchez

Photo: Associated Press