Feb 16, 2015 · 1 minute

AT&T wants its customers to pay $29 a month not to have their online activities monitored, analyzed, and used to inform countless advertisements when they sign up for the "GigaPower" fiber optic service that just launched in Kansas City.

It works like this. People choose between several different options when they sign up for the service, which is supposed to offer gigabit download speeds and competes with Google Fiber, and one of them doesn't monitor their activities.

The other one allows AT&T to track "the webpages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter." It costs $29 less per month -- that must be the going rate for maintaining privacy.

This tracking works regardless of a consumer's browser settings, so even if they use the sparsely-supported "Do Not Track" option, AT&T is going to track them. And this option, along with its $70 monthly price, is the one AT&T is pushing.

In the grand scheme of things, allowing yet another company to gather data and sell it to advertisers probably doesn't seem like a big deal, given the fact that much of the modern Web is built on top of a foundation of for-profit surveillance.

But it seems a bit ridiculous that an Internet service provider (ISP) feels the need to trick consumers into allowing it to monitor their every activity. What's next, wireless service that tracks everyone's online activities? (Actually, about that...)

Now everyone in Kansas City who wants to experience Internet connections that don't belong in the last century will have to answer a simple question: is their privacy worth more than $29, or do they want to save a few bucks on Internet?

Let's hope AT&T doesn't introduce a clause asking for our souls (unless we pay another $49 per month) next. I'm not sure many people would notice the fine print condemning them to an afterlife in an AT&T call center before it's too late.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]