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TV LINKED TO NET TRACKS VIEWER DATA

PHILADELPHIA -- It is noon on a Monday, and technicians at WorldGate Communications in Trevose know that 121 cable-television subscribers of Charter Communications in Maryville, Ill., are at home playing with interactive TV.

Some of those subscribers are just watching the tube. But others, controls in hand, are roaming among television programs and corresponding World Wide Web sites, sending e-mail, or shopping online. All while camped in front of their TV sets.

As those subscribers play, computers in WorldGate's National Channel Hyperlinking Center gather data on how long they spend on which show, whether they link from the TV show to a Web site, and even what they click on.

With interactive TV, viewers can hop among Web sites, TV shows and advertisements, all on the same television screen.

That may seem an invasion of privacy. It is also valuable information to WorldGate and advertisers who are starting to learn how people use the television set when it works more like a computer.

-- Knight Ridder

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