Canadian ISP Rogers
is currently trialling a worrying new 'service' to place its own content on third-party pages.
While we all know that everything we see and do on the Internet can, in theory, be seen in turn by our respective ISPs, we sit safe in the knowledge that the ISP just doesn't care: with the possible exception of an ongoing criminal investigation they have neither the time nor the inclination to sift through billions of packets every second looking for juicy tidbits.
This feeling of security is being threatened, however, by an unholy alliance between high-speed Internet access provider Rogers and in-browser advertising specialists PerfTech
Currently the system is simple: by using the deep-packet inspection tools it already has (for looking for naughty BitTorrent traffic), Rogers is able to see when you visit such pages as the Google homepage
and insert branded 'status messages' at the top. These messages are currently limited to benign information about your account such as how close you are to exceeding your data transfer allowance for the month. Although the messages may be benign, the mechanism certainly isn't.
It's all too easy to imagine a Rogers-PerfTech-Google alliance that would use this breach of the sanctity of in-transit data to place 'unobtrusive' text ads at the top of every single page you visit: something that worries page owners who rely on their own advertising revenue almost as much as it worries you.
In response to the bad feeling being broadcast around various news organisations as a result of this move (including, now, this one) their Vice-President of Communications, Taanta Gupta, issued a statement claiming to be “trying different things,” and “test[ing] customer response.”
Gupta also claimed the intrusive status messages were “useful information for the customer to have," but isn't that what advertisers (and, indeed, spammers) always say?
Are you pleased with being able to see such “useful information” at zero effort to yourself, or should ISPs take a more hands-off approach and just provide Internet service (if only there was an acronym to describe a neutral provider of Internet service...)? Vent your spleen in the forums.
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