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Charter Is Latest ISP To Plan Wiretapping Via DPI

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the bad-phorm dept.

Privacy 309

Charter Communications has begun sending letters to its customers informing them that, in the name of an "enhanced user experience," it will begin spying on their traffic and inserting targeted ads. This sounds almost indistinguishable from what Phorm proposed doing in the UK. Lauren Weinstein issues a call to arms.

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309 comments

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Call to arms? (4, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#23393932)

So if I blog something, and title it a 'call to arms', am I suddenly relevant too?

Re:Call to arms? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394226)

Maybe, if your 'call to arms' is any good. And being somewhat known helps too I guess http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Weinstein_(activist)

Re:Call to arms? (2, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394392)

And to increase your security, we have to listen to all your phone calls.

Re:Call to arms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394694)

And to increase your security, we have to listen to all your phone calls.
We're sorry, this phonecall has been interrupted to tell you about a wonderful new deal at Joe's BBQ Emporium. Just tell them that Charter sent you and you'll get a dollar off your meal of choice! Thanks for listening, have a great day!

Re:Call to arms? (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394480)

So if I blog something, and title it a 'call to arms', am I suddenly relevant too?
No, you first have to include incendiary slashdot summaries like Company X to SPY on YOU!

Re:Call to arms? (5, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394642)

So if I blog something, and title it a 'call to arms', am I suddenly relevant too?
No, you first have to include incendiary slashdot summaries like Company X to SPY on YOU!

OK, let's cut out the middle man here, and go straight to what Charter is saying [charter.com] :

How does this service actually work?
It uses completely anonymous information and, based on your surfing and search activity on the Internet, it infers your interests in certain product or service categories, such as automobiles/sports cars, fashion/handbags, or travel/Europe, and so forth.

Translated ... we're going to inspect the contents of your packets, and infer what you are looking at. Then we will use that information to increase our revenue by supposedly giving you more relevant ads.

So, tell me, how exactly is reading my packets that much different from "spying" on me? I expect my phone carrier to not listen to my calls to decide what inserts they should put into my next bill, because telcos are supposed to have an arms length relationship with your data.

This is not nearly as inflammatory and knee-jerk as you make it out to be. They actually are reading what you do.

And, for the record, it can't be "completely anonymous" if they know to put it into my web-page. They may claim that they can't tie it to you, but, if they know to give you an ad for Depends Undergarments, at some point, they decided that you needed to receive that targeted ad.

Cheers

Re:Call to arms? (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394844)

So, tell me, how exactly is reading my packets that much different from "spying" on me?
I couldn't help notice that the linked article doesn't use the word "spying" at all, but slashdot doesn't seem to mind upping the rhetorical ante in that regard. I'm not saying it ISN'T spying; I'm just saying the language is argumentative on purpose.

Re:Call to arms? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395016)

I couldn't help notice that the linked article doesn't use the word "cerulean" at all, but slashdot doesn't seem to mind upping the rhetorical ante in that regard. I'm not saying it ISN'T cerulean; I'm just saying the language is argumentative on purpose.

All they said was "A hue approaching the color of the clear sky in the daytime" How dare slahsdot suggest that it's cerulean.

Re:Call to arms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394502)

So if I blog something, and title it a 'call to arms', am I suddenly relevant too?

No. Much like your post, you'd be off-topic and irrelevant and probably be considered insightful by clueless mods.

Re:Call to arms? (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395020)

No, but your 6-digit UID should be enough! Maybe.

Goodbye Maggie (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23393934)

RIP Margaret Hilda Thatcher. It's just been announced on the radio that she had one final stroke earlier today. A great woman and a great politician. Let's all be grateful for her actions in saving us from the working class and her part in the final defeat of socialism. Truly an English icon.

1925-2008.

Re:Goodbye Maggie (4, Funny)

damiangerous (218679) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394346)

Margaret Thatcher and Stephen King on the same day? What are the odds?

Re:Goodbye Maggie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395024)

Margaret Thatcher and Stephen King on the same day? What are the odds?
Stephen King died again?! He just keeps dying and coming back to life and dying and coming back to life... What an incredible experience that must be. He should write a book about it.

Re:Goodbye Maggie (1)

budcub (92165) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395194)

Stephen King died again?! He just keeps dying and coming back to life and dying and coming back to life...

Well he is Stephen King after all.

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23393940)

Yarrrr!!

Enhanced user experience (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#23393956)

Someone needs to tell Charter that you don't "enhance" suck.

Re:Enhanced user experience (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394074)

Someone needs to tell Charter that you don't "enhance" suck.

IBM:Apple::Comcast:Charter.

Proof by Advertising follows:

IBM: Think.
Apple: Think Different.

Comcast: Suck.
Charter: Suck Different.

Re:Enhanced user experience (4, Informative)

carambola5 (456983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394918)

Someone needs to tell Charter that you don't "enhance" suck.
That "someone" could be you.

If you live in the Madison, WI area, attend the Madison Broadband Telecommunications Regulatory Board Meeting this Thursday (May 15, 2008) at 5:30pm in Room 103A of the City-County building (210 MLK Blvd). Complain during the Public Comment part of the meeting, which is immediately after Call to Order and Roll Call. I plan to be there.

If you don't live in the Madison, WI area and have Charter as the local franchise, find out when your municipality holds its regulatory meetings. They tend to be monthly or bimonthly and should be open to the public.

[To no one in particular:] Get out from behind your computer desk and get in someone's face! Tell your government that maintaining a laissez-faire attitude towards Charter is not working.

Scummy ISPs (3, Insightful)

bestinshow (985111) | more than 6 years ago | (#23393962)

Does that mean that the ISP will be altering the copyrighted material sent by the websites? Surely this would create an unauthorised derivative work?

ISPs that modify HTML content going over their network are scummy operators. It breaks web pages, it denies revenue to the websites, and is unethical in so many ways.

COX dns poisoning.. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394158)

The "enhanced user experience" is nothing more than a smoke screen to spy on you, and get more ad revenue for their own personal gain. It's utter bullshit. Recently COX communications implimented nation wide DNS poisoning similiar to what versign does on domains it can't resolve.

http://support.cox.com/sdccommon/asp/contentredirect.asp?sprt_cid=e047dc81-18c4-485f-bcf3-1263d0b7b904 [cox.com]

How to opt out of the "enhanced user experience"

How does injecting ad's into my browser "enhance" my experience? Give me more fucking bandwith you money grubbing cheap fucks, and that MIGHT enhance my experience.. I hate them.

Re:Scummy ISPs (5, Interesting)

coats (1068) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394160)

Does that mean that the ISP will be altering the copyrighted material sent by the websites?
Damned right it does. There are no ads on my web pages, for example http://www.baronams.com/products/ioapi/ [baronams.com]

Can someone tell me whether Charter is inserting any ads? If they are, I want to complain to the Attorney General and to my CongressCritters about felony copyright infringement.

Re:Scummy ISPs (1)

SWCommand (983311) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394258)

Nothing so far, but it might just take time.

Re:Scummy ISPs (1)

Solandri (704621) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394744)

Didn't this already get settled when cable TV was first introduced? IIRC the broadcast companies were up in arms about the cable TV companies effectively re-broadcasting their transmissions, but swapping out the ads for ones which paid the cable company. The cable companies argued that the broadcast companies were being paid a fixed amount for the ads, so it didn't matter if they were or weren't included in cable broadcasts. If I'm remembering right, I pretty sure the cable companies lost. I think the current situation is that the cable companies have to contract agreements with the broadcast studios, and most such agreements stipulate the nationwide ads need to be kept in place, but the cable company can switch out some of the local ads (presumably for a fee).

Re:Scummy ISPs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394856)

No changes being made by Sprint PCS CDMA

Re:Scummy ISPs (4, Informative)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394924)

You may want to check out this site, which has tests on in-flight ad injection and tools that you can use to detect (aka tripwire) it.

http://vancouver.cs.washington.edu/ [washington.edu]

Re:Scummy ISPs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395032)

They probably don't have any targeted ads in their que that match up with "Meteorological Systems
Environmental Modeling" :)

Re:Scummy ISPs (4, Interesting)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395108)

The following web site contains some scripts which do self-analysis/ checksum calculations to determinwe whether they have been interfered unlawfully with:

Corruption detection scripts [washington.edu]

Re:Scummy ISPs (4, Interesting)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394172)

This might actually fly. If some content owner starts a case, they could very well make a case for an "unauthorized derivative" under the copyright rules. Then ISPs or transits must take a license for all material they modify. I for one would not allow third parties to modify my HTML.

Re:Scummy ISPs (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394294)

Does that mean that the ISP will be altering the copyrighted material sent by the websites? Surely this would create an unauthorised derivative work?

I should hope at some point, that very theory will get tested in court.

Agree completely that for an ISP to change to contents of a page I request from a 3rd party is just plain wrong. What next, redirecting you from URLs critical of them onto URLs which sing their praises? Preventing you from reading about the services of competitors?

Modifying the requested data is way too invasive, but it seems to be consistent with the whole strategy of "monetizing what your customers do". What you want is irrelevant, you're just a revenue stream.

As has been said so often, I hope things like this cause the networks to lose anything resembling common carrier status -- right now, they're just a network, so whatever you send it up to you.

Cheers

Re:Scummy ISPs (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394428)

Regardless of copyright infringement (although it has a lot more legal backing power). The fact that I am paying my ISP should mean they provide me a service (ONE service, that we agreed to). Last I checked I didn't pay someone to mow my yard or deliver something and have them give me a speech about buying someone else.

Re:Scummy ISPs (1)

FuzzyFox (772046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394930)

How is it different from what my FIOS TV service is doing?

I have noticed that they often replace the commercials from the feed, with their own commercials. I mostly notice this because they do such a poor job of it, often cutting their commercial in a few seconds late, and cutting it out a second or two early.

Is Verizon violating the copyright on the video feed that they are supplying to me? Are they depriving the feeds of their ad revenue by supplanting the commercials with their own?

Now that a precedent has been set... (4, Insightful)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394024)

Now that a precedent has been set, I plan to examine and modify the direct deposit traffic found on the network. Just a few simple modifications, change the account number, add a few zeros to the amount, simple things like that.

Wonder when someone will figure out that their ad is being replaced by something else and sues?

Re:Now that a precedent has been set... (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394282)

I like it, just make sure you call it an "enhanced provider experience".

Instant Global Collapse (1)

azzuth (1177007) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394354)

in a few days you could afford that 800,000 dollar DPI machine and automate the process. Within weeks all the worlds wealth will be yours! I for one welcome our slashname3 overlord...

Re:Instant Global Collapse (3, Funny)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394456)

I don't want all the worlds wealth. Just a very small percentage will do. There is plenty to go around for everyone on /.

Re:Instant Global Collapse (2, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394772)

I don't want all the worlds wealth. Just a very small percentage will do. There is plenty to go around for everyone on /.
PETER
Well, how does it work?

MICHAEL
It's pretty brilliant. What it does is where there's a bank
transaction, and the interests are computed in the thousands a day in
fractions of a cent, which it usually rounds off. What this does is it
takes those remainders and puts it into your account.

PETER
This sounds familiar.

MICHAEL
Yeah. They did this in Superman III.

PETER
Yeah. What a good movie.

A plugin needed perhaps? (4, Insightful)

DnemoniX (31461) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394102)

Here is a project idea then, somebody start up a project to write a Firefox plugin that detects the inserted ads from Charter and either filter them out or replace them with something else.

As a Charter customer I can tell you that this comes as no surprise at all. They are shady as hell and their local offices are havens for the inept.

Re:A plugin needed perhaps? (3, Funny)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394288)

I tried that.

the snag I ran into was that the plugin was 'intercepted/replaced' and I got an ENITRELY different plugin.

that plugin never really replaced the ads properly. hmmm..

(I'll say it again, DPI is quite evil! JUST SAY NO to isp's that do this shit to you and don't give you at least an opt-out from it.)

Re:A plugin needed perhaps? (2, Funny)

wootcat (1151911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394562)

I wouldn't want to block the Charter interceptions so much as log them, then take Charter to court demanding payment for advertising via my site.

1. Create ad placeholders on my site that aren't really ads, but look like them to Charter's system.
2. Create outrageous price structure for ads.
3. Log all instances of interception.
4. Bill Charter.
5. ???
6. PROFIT!!!

(Now I just need to get that down to 3 steps - everyone knows you have to profit by step 3)

Re:A plugin needed perhaps? (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394290)

Already done--called addblock plus

Re:A plugin needed perhaps? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394602)

Or just change to only browse sites with HTTPS. If they manage to insert ads or other junk into HTTPS then it's time to close the web.

Plugin, or perhaps a signing routine? (2, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394902)

For web content that doesn't need to go over SSL/TLS, I wonder about some way of having webservers sign the HTML of the get request with their SSL key, and cache that signature, so subsequent requests of that HTML page have almost no overhead incurred.

Then, on high volume servers that are not needing the security of SSL, the core HTML page that gets to the client can be verified (using the client's CPU time) if it was modified in transit, without the server needing to spend the CPU time for SSL's overhead. If the HTML doesn't match, then offer the user a mechanism to browse the site entirely using SSL.

The only issue is for dynamic content that can't be cached, this will add a cryptographic signing step for each page.

An example:

Someone browses www.foo.com
the webserver at foo.com grabs index.html, signs it with www.foo.com's SSL key, saves the signature in a cache that is reset if someone legitimately edits index.html on the server, then sends the web browser index.html and after that, index.html's signature, perhaps in OpenPGP format. After the first signing, all the webserver is doing is sending two files (index.html and the cached signature.)
The web browser compared the received index.html to the signature, and alerts the user if it was tampered with.

As for my stuff, for low volume web servers such as my home domain, I just automatically redirect the user to the SSL server, because that stops this problem cold. If an ISP is able to intercept SSL traffic, (especially with an EV certificate), they are so advanced at crypto, they deserve to be able to insert ads.

I have a feeling that it will only be a matter of time before not just ISPs that people are subscribed on, but large volume peering nodes will try their hand at inserting ads, so might as well just force as much traffic to SSL whenever possible now, although for high volume sites, this is far easier said than done.

Re:A plugin needed perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395180)

How about a plugin that replaces the ads with a widget to send them a cease and desist email?

And in other news... (3, Funny)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394112)

The McDonald's Corporation has begun sending letters to its customers informing them that, in the name of an "enhanced user experience," it will begin using cat poo on their hamburgers as condiments and inserting...

Re:And in other news... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394270)

and this would differ from current practices how exactly?

Re:And in other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394828)

and this would differ from current practices how exactly?
Don't be silly, cat poo would probably cost a lot more.

mod 0P (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394156)

so there are 4eople members' creative Mutated testicle of

Now or Never (5, Interesting)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394176)

Some things call for the proverbial nuclear response: boycotts, lawsuits, all-out opposition. This is one of them. Once one of these corporations gets away with this, it's game over for those of us who want a corner of our lives that doesn't have some lying prick forcing his way into it to sell us something, spin the information we get and otherwise screw with our reality in a way that works to somebody else's advantage at our expense.

Re:Now or Never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394650)

Agreed. Where do I sign up?

Re:Now or Never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394886)

There are no nukes in the bible...

Silly Willy

Maybe? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394180)

Now I think this is a grave violation of so many rights, but I wonder, does this make the service cheaper? Currently in Texas, for me, Broadband is about $30-40 for me, but if this service pegged the service down to say $10 a month, i'd opt for it. Past that, these people deserve better.

Re:Maybe? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394274)

does this make the service cheaper?
No, it won't. Next question please.

Re:Maybe? (2, Insightful)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394636)

If you want internet access and are satisfied with this, then I will sell you $100 Red Sox tickets for $10. It will look just like you are at Fenway, but you will actually be seeing the game with ads on a TV screen.

And a million websites went HTTPS overnight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394204)

and then billed the ISPs.

Details of Phorm (4, Informative)

giafly (926567) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394248)

This new system seems very simplar to Phorm, so here are details. The Phorm "Webwise" System - Richard Clayton [lightbluetouchpaper.org] . Seems you can avoid being monitored by blocking Phorm's cookie.

Firefox add-in to block Phorm (1)

giafly (926567) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394302)

Firefox add-in to block Phorm [dephormation.org.uk] .

Re:Firefox add-in to block Phorm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394542)

You need a plugin to block a cookie?

Re:Firefox add-in to block Phorm (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395196)

You need a plugin to block a cookie?
Yes, because Phorm deletes their cookies after two years. You have to visit their web-page or something similar in order stop them providing "context-based adverts". Even then, they are still building up a keyword profile of you based upon the web pages you have downloaded.

I certainly do not wish to be bombarded with adverts on outdoor shooting if I read human rights articles. Nor do I wish to have vermin removal adverts if I start looking for a new multi-function input device. Or even camping and holiday adverts, simply because I am reading historical literature. This is just as a bad as those web-pages where every Noun becomes a green instant pop-up hyperlink to some advertising pages.

Re:Details of Phorm (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394770)

So the next step is for us running websites to provide a different set of pages for any "services" like Phorm so that they get completely confused. A large set of pages provided that only contains texts in latin about plants and animals.

OK, I'll probably get a lot of bird-seed commercials injected then but WTF...

Sounds Like... (4, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394332)

Sounds like how Microsoft Genuine Advantage is presented as good thing for all Windows users.

The only way this will be any good is if any, or all, of the following are true:

1: You can opt out.

2: You ISP has gone to an ad-supported model that results in a drastic reduction of your monthly fees.

3: They are providing you with extra bandwidth free in order to carry the extra traffic they're generating to you (and not counting it against your usage caps).

Otherwise give them hell until they back off!

One is left to wonder how long before they start actually replacing ads on other sites with their own ads. After all, gangsters like this hate competition. Making you pay to get their ads, however, really sux!

Re:Sounds Like... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394538)

2: You ISP has gone to an ad-supported model that results in a drastic reduction of your monthly fees.

*laugh* If only that were true. They're trying to gouge you by selling you the service, and then make some more money by selling you targeted advertising based on what they have scraped out of your packets.

One is left to wonder how long before they start actually replacing ads on other sites with their own ads

That's exactly what they've said they're going to do -- in their eyes, they can make more money by changing the ads from 3rd party sites with ones they're getting paid for. They're not talking about selecting the right ads to show you on their pages, but changing the ads you'll see.

Or, are you being ironic? :-P

Cheers

Re:Sounds Like... (2, Informative)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394764)

The Article is mostly about how yes, you can opt out, but you have to go to their site, send them an unencrypted form with all your personal information, and download and keep a "privacy cookie" so that the company knows not to track you, and not to insert ads. My question - If anyone other than an ISP did this, it would be illegal right? Can I start going around injecting ads to make me revenue from other peoples original works? Being an ISP doesn't give them any special privilege to infringe on copyright laws right? If they go through with this, and it stands, I'm going to do it too.

Re:Sounds Like... (2, Interesting)

brunascle (994197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394992)

a cookie? how would that work? the cookie would only be sent to the website that created it. how would they see the cookie when someone goes to a different site? are they still injecting something into web pages that points to their own site, to check for the cookie? that's still bad, bad, bad.

Re:Sounds Like... (1)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394952)

That is my favorite gripe about Microsoft Genuine Advantage. Advantage for whom, exactly? It's an advantage only for Microsoft, for the customers it's a hassle.

They're not in the business of finding way to cut fees for customers. Not only are Internet ads becoming more invasive, the people selling them are finding ways to subvert each others inventory and revenue. We, as the customers, just sit back and *benefit* from this enhanced user experience.

I hope they all bankrupt each other in court. AdBlock is becoming more and more attractive every day.

Praise the invisible pink unicorn for SSH (1)

NobleSavage (582615) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394356)

As a Charter customer I guess now is the time for > ssh -D 9999 me@myserver.com

burn them to the ground! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394412)

Lets slashdot those DPI monsters.

the beauty of open source.

1. Patch Apache to respond to ATTACK requests.
2. netsed 's/GET/ATTACK/g'
3. ???
4. Consult!

Or we could just build a data passing protocol that uses words on the gov's 'hotlist' as function calls or something...

Anyone on charter, please visit our tripwire... (5, Informative)

nweaver (113078) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394432)

If anyone is using charter (or just suspicious of things), please visit our tripwire server:

http://vancouver.cs.washington.edu/ [washington.edu] , to (hopefully) detect in-flight page changes.

Re:Anyone on charter, please visit our tripwire... (1)

chihowa (366380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394946)

Have you considered adding some images (preferably a standard banner ad size) to these pages? It's conceivable that the injected ads may replace already present banner ads to avoid screwing up the page layout and drawing attention to the practice to the content providers.

Re:Anyone on charter, please visit our tripwire... (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395068)

Do you have any mirrors on a non .edu domain? Maybe they're being kind to the .edu TLD (doubt it) or even specifically avoiding your tripwire site.

Mod me down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394446)

FTA: I appreciate Charterâ(TM)s respect for my privacy, ...

This was written with neither sarcasm nor irony. Don't kiss ass! This change means they have no respect for your privacy and the most appriate action is to cancel your service. This *might* get them to change. What TFA writes makes them think they "almost" got it.

charter - u-verse (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394514)

I just jumped ship this morning because of their prices. I would certainly pay more for a service that doesn't do this, although I don't have to.

... how do they do the actual inserting? Do they use a transparent web proxy setup? How do they see the cookie? I have so many technical questions I almost wish I hadn't canceled their service yet.

Double-Standard (2, Insightful)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394530)

I'm not trying to troll here but these questions will surely sound like it.

Now copyright infringement is a major deal? So the RIAA was on to something when decided to try to protect their copyrighted materials after all?

Re:Double-Standard. WHAT? (1)

Viewsonic (584922) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394680)

It has always been a major deal.

I don't think anyone will argue that the RIAA shouldn't be upset that people are giving away their product for free. What people are upset about is that they are demanding extremely high fines that don't fit the crime. Where it should be a warning, or a small fine of perhaps $100, they are destroying peoples lives entirely. The punishment does not fit the crime, which is the problem.

Re:Double-Standard (1)

Caste11an (898046) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394808)

These two concepts are nothing alike, and you know it.

If I want to record my own music and then post it on the web as a new Backstreet Boys song, or go into a music store and replace all of and artist's CDs with copies that include my song instead of the one that was officially recorded, then you've got a point. And I don't think anyone on Slashdot would argue against the RIAA prosecuting someone who does that.

This is a bait-and-switch. It stinks to the highest elevation and means that ISPs aren't just abusing/violating copyright -- they're also invading my privacy.

If you honestly believe this is a double-standard, you've got some serious fucking problems.

Re:Double-Standard (1)

howdoesth (1132949) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394872)

It's about using enemy's own weapons against him. I refer you to the 1968 Supreme Court ruling in Two Wrongs v. One Right.

Re:Double-Standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394948)

Now copyright infringement is a major deal? So the RIAA was on to something when decided to try to protect their copyrighted materials after all?
Err... no? You're looking at the wrong side of things.

Obviously the webpage authors have no problem with their works being distributed (otherwise they can't be viewed). It's the combination of modifying their websites, and making profit off of them that will bring in an uproar.

The RIAA's big headline lawsuits have been for the unauthorized distribution of the works, not for modification, or profit.

Re:Double-Standard (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395004)

Now copyright infringement is a major deal? So the RIAA was on to something when decided to try to protect their copyrighted materials after all?
The formal idea of copyright was originally created (after the invention of the printing press) to protect written works and maps.

The US Congress didn't make music a protected work until ~40 years after the first Federal copyright law was passed and even then, most everyone went ahead and ignored it for another 70~80 years.

Copyright on music is a very modern idea.
Copyright on books is a very old idea.

Revoke common carrier status now (5, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394556)

MP3s in the incoming folder? "Charter put them there."

Child porn in the cache? "Charter put it there."

Nuclear weapon plans in email? "Charter sent it."

Seriously, WTF are they thinking? Do they really want to be named as co-defendants in every criminal or civil case brought against their customers? Because if they modified my incoming data and I was later called in to account for anything, you can bet my first line of defense would be to blame it on them.

Re:Revoke common carrier status now (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395128)

This brings up another concern. Even though Charter/Phorm is not being malevolent, just greedy... what happens if their proxy server/ad server gets hijacked or compromised? Such a server would make a big target for thieves because of the gains.

Should something that injects ads gets compromised, a malware distributer now would have unfettered access to every single Charter subscriber. A compromised ad server could be done in such a way where only a relatively few people at random would get exposed to zero day exploit code.

What was intended as a money stream would make an identity theft ring very happy, with not just being able to add new members to botnets, but to log traffic of subscribers for either use for ID theft, or perhaps extortion.

What is ironic is that damage caused by an ad injection server would be immediately blamed on the destination website, and in a court of law, criminal charges can be pressed and likely made to stick (because juries won't consider ad injector "services" as reasonable doubt.) Civil charges almost certainly will be able to be won. A compromised ad injecting server could easy go for months if not longer, escaping detection, as there would be zero proof that it was the ad injection "service" that did this.

Again, I posted earlier about having some facility to sign Web pages without needing the overhead of full SSL... perhaps someone should look into this, so high volume websites can still serve pages with little overhead, but offer immediate detection if the page is modified in transit.

Re:Revoke common carrier status now (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395150)

Goddamn it, with your UID I would think you know this but ISPs do NOT enjoy common carrier status. If they had common carrier status, they couldn't do this. They have chosen to not have common carrier status and instead embed provisions in their contract with you saying that you agree to claim responsibility for anything bad that comes from your IP address.

Two things... (3, Interesting)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394568)

First, much like ANY transaction in any medium, the article claims your name and address is required. Why are we willing to give our name and address out for nearly any transaction, yet as soon as an online transaction calls for it, we freak out? I'm pretty sure when you signed up for Charter service, you probably gave them your name, address, phone number, checking account number, debit card, etc. etc. You probably gave them a deposit and they probably looked up your credit using, gasp, your social security number.

Second, how is this any different than Google? They track my online activity then target me with ads that I might find interesting. Am I even given the option to opt out of Google ads? (serious questions, not flame-baiting)

Re:Two things... (3, Insightful)

eNygma-x (1137037) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394654)

It's different because you are going to Google's website. I'm chosing to use them. But for someone to inject their ads on a site that does not belong to them pisses me off.

Re:Two things... (1)

FatMacDaddy (878246) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394708)

The difference in your first question is that this company is asking you to submit personal information in the clear. I'm pretty sure that most of us would expect to use an https page for that and would not want to submit that information in the open. That was (one of the) big complaint(s) of the person in the article.

As for the second question, the difference I see is that Google puts ads on their search pages, while these guys are proposing to insert ads in *any* page you request.

Any customer who doesn't vote with their feet on this issue deserves what they get.

Arguing your analogy (2, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394914)

"Second, how is this any different than Google?

You can choose not to use Google. You know up front, before you use their site, what Google does. You either decide if the loss of privacy is worth it or not, and then choose appropriately. You can use any number of competing search engines.

But most places have no more than three choices of broadband access, with expensive satellite connections one of them. In reality, if customers really won't stand for Charter's actions on this, it means changing their ISP to whoever their local DSL provider is.

I'm fairly sympathetic to ISP companies trying to get the most revenue out of customers in different ways, as long as its not a matter of forcing something on customers... after all, those networks, with a lot of physical infrastructure, in addition to network administration and staffing, cost a lot of money to set up and operate. And these companies are for-profit businesses, after all, not charities. But this goes way too far. This isn't just violating a customer's privacy. That's too simple. It's violating their very user experience. Not what I'd call "enhanced" at all.

Look at an analogy from the old phone company days, pre-Internet. Imagine talking on your phone to friends or family about, oh, say a camping trip, and then having an operator break into your conversation to sell you tents and sleeping bags. Not only would it annoy the hell out of you, you certainly wouldn't like the idea of always having an operator listening in on you during every phone call.

This is going to be a situation where my Congressman and Senators and various FCC functionaries get letters from me.This crosses the line.

Breach of copyright (1, Redundant)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394574)

Isn't inserting ads into pages creating unlicensed derivative works and subverting revenue ala Gator back in the day?

*ahem* (0)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394578)

Just came here to say: Charter is from the debil.

That is all.

=Smidge=

Here's the plan... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394704)

Someone needs to find a very lite page that they insert ads into and refresh it constantly, thereby going over the download cap within a month.

There's no way charter (or any isp) is allowed to charge for excess transfers of data you never requested.

Any ISP could be doing this.... (2)

8127972 (73495) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394850)

....and the thought of that scares me. It got the attention of another blogger who sees this as a slippery slope in Canada since Bell Canada uses DPI to throttle users:

http://itnerd.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/charter-uses-dpi-to-spy-on-its-users-canada-are-you-paying-attention/ [wordpress.com]

Can a common carrier inspect content? (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394884)

I don't see how they can inspect content like this and retain their common carrier status.

Open-source technological solutions.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23394896)

1. Change open-source web servers (Apache, etc.) to have HTTPS on, redirect HTTP requests to HTTPS.
2. Change open-source web browsers (Firefox, etc.) to redirect HTTP requests to HTTPS.

"Customer Care" Response (4, Informative)

the JoshMeister (742476) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394932)

I went to Charter's contact page [charter.com] and selected the option to chat live with a Customer Care Representative:

You have been connected to TTD Jomar .
Me: I just read an article stating that Charter has begun sending letters to its customers informing them that, in the name of an "enhanced user experience," it will begin spying on their traffic and inserting targeted ads. Is there any truth to this?
TTD Jomar : Thank you for contacting Charter High Speed Internet Technical Support. My name is Jomar. How may I assist you today?
TTD Jomar : I'm so sorry, but this is already beyond our scope of support. Please call 1-888-438-2427 for further assistance.
Me: Thank you.
TTD Jomar : Again I apologize for the inconvenience you've experienced, but if there is anything further I can help you with please, let me know.

That kind of response doesn't sound like "Customer Care" to me.

Anyway, I called the number and spoke to someone who didn't have a clue what I was talking about. He transferred me to someone else.

The second phone rep said she hadn't heard about the new "enhanced user experience" feature, so she put me on hold to ask someone else. After she came back on the line, she said that she wasn't able to find out anything about it, so said to go to charter.net [charter.net] to stay informed about new features and services.

Naturally, there doesn't appear to be anything on Charter's site about the new "enhanced user experience."

This marks the end of what was the Internet (5, Insightful)

a4r6 (978521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23394944)

When ISPs can actually MODIFY data that does not belong to them, a SERIOUS boundary has been broken.
It's like the telephone company talking in place of someone on the phone.

"Hey mom" "Hi Mike, how are you?"
becomes:
"Hey mom" "HI MIKE, GET VIAGRA NOW FOR $3.99/20mg!"

Easy fix to this solution (1)

thorkyl (739500) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395000)

2 actually,
1. Mail them a letter and tel them no, I do not agree with your data sniffing

2.
HOSTS file...
find the charter server(s) info point to 127.0.0.1 or other ip of your choice...

then have a script that files and electronic version of a small claims suit
on the IP address. Each ad replacement would be its own cause of action.

then surf away...

spammer.charter.net
got.screwed.by.charter.net

and so on...

A threat to every publisher who uses AdSense, etc. (4, Insightful)

GeorgeK (642310) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395034)

I'm astonished. How is this any different from the postal service ripping out all the magazine ads and replacing them with their own ads before they get delivered to your house?

With the "deep packet inspection" technologies, conceivably ISPs can just replace, in real-time, our Google AdSense pubisher IDs with their own. Or, they could simply replace the Google AdSense Javascript snippet with something else.

I would hope that Google and other large advertising networks lead the charge against this, and that they are not partnered with any ISPs involved in this activity. A large class action lawsuit on behalf of publishers might slap sense into any ISPs using this "enhancement" to steal revenues from legitimate publishers.

Why no SSL on (for example) google.com? (1)

jep305 (1288822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395080)

I've often wished that Google would let me use SSL to access their services. Looks like this might provide them some motivation to do so. JP

Why Can't We Get That Everywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23395090)

This sounds like a great idea. We sure hope the others ISPs catch on!

Adverts? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395096)

What adverts? I don't see no adverts. Do I need to install Windows to get the full user experience?

HTTPS Everything. (1)

alextheseal (653421) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395118)

So the end game is this. If I as a web site operator don't want anyone stealing my ad-revenue, or messing with my content all I do it add an SSL cert to my web page for $20-100 per year and a little more server meat and boom, $500K for that neat DPI box they just bought has an ROI of 0%. Let them try to decrypt 80GPS in realtime for $500K.

My Conversation with Charter (5, Informative)

tedivm (942879) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395122)

A representative will be with you shortly. You have been connected to TTM Mike .

TTM Mike : Hi this is Mike from Charter. How may I help you today?

Robert Hafner: I read an article online, and the followed it to the Charter webpage, which states that Charter is going to be monitoring my surfing habits and placing ads into pages I'm viewing. I am wondering how soon this will happen to me personally.
Robert Hafner: http://connect.charter.com/landing/op1.html [charter.com]

TTM Mike : I do apologize but let me transfer you over toour internet support line.
TTM Mike has left the session.

Please wait while we find an agent from the CHAT - DUMA - HSD Support department to assist you.

You have been connected to TTD Grah .

TTD Grah : Hi, this is Grah. Thank you for contacting Charter's High Speed Internet support. How may I be of assistance to you today?

Robert Hafner: I read an article online, and the followed it to the Charter webpage, which states that Charter is going to be monitoring my surfing habits and placing ads into pages I'm viewing. I am wondering how soon this will happen to me personally.

TTD Grah : One moment please.

Robert Hafner: http://connect.charter.com/landing/op1.html [charter.com] Contains the information
Robert Hafner: that I am basing this question off of.
Robert Hafner: As well as http://consumerist.com/5008801/charter-to-begin-tracking-users-searches-and-inserting-targeted-ads [consumerist.com]

TTD Grah : Yes, that is our new update.
TTD Grah : One moment please as I download the document.
TTD Grah : Charter has formed a partnership with an industry-leader in online advertising, NebuAd (www.nebuad.com). NebuAd, through their advertising network, will display targeted advertisements to Charter High-Speed® Internet customers while they are surfing the Web. NebuAd does not collect and use personally identifiable information to deliver advertising. Customers will not see more ads - just ads that are more relevant to their interests that have been expressed through their web-surfing activity.
TTD Grah : The feature will be activated automatically for Charter HSI customers beginning in June 2008 in the following four Charter markets:
Newtown, Connecticut
Fort Worth, Texas
San Luis Obispo, California
Oxford, Massachusetts

Robert Hafner: So the ads are placed directly into websites I would normally view?
Robert Hafner: How do I opt-out for an entire household, with multiple computers and browsers?
Robert Hafner: Currently the only way to opt-out is by placing a cookie under each browser of each account of each computer, which is absolutely insane.

TTD Grah : The technology can actually often distinguish between different users on a shared computer and, therefore, can serve different ads to different users. Only a portion of the ads you see will be a function of the enhanced service - you will still see some ads that are served based on other criteria.

Robert Hafner: The question was were are those ads being placed- are they replacing other ads on websites, for instance?
Robert Hafner: And if so, how is the owner of the actual website going to be compensated?

TTD Grah : This site may appear depending on what are you trying to view online.
TTD Grah : This site will give you options on what to have according to what you need.

Robert Hafner: What site are you referring to?

TTD Grah : Say for example, you are surfing because you wish to purchase shoes online, this site will pop up and give you options to chose from.
TTD Grah : That is how it works.
TTD Grah : That is how it works.
TTD Grah : The site will not pop up everytime you go online.

Robert Hafner: So this only affects my traffic to the charter search site?
Robert Hafner: And it gives pop up ads?

TTD Grah : Yes.

Robert Hafner: So it won't affect any other site I go to?

TTD Grah : Yes, that is correct.

Robert Hafner: So what is this tracking that it does? I'm aware that its deep-packet tracking, which means its monitoring everything I do, not just what I search for, so how can I disable that for my entire household?

TTD Grah : The ads you will see are standard ad types, such as banner ads and similar advertising formats, and are displayed only where you would typically expect to see them. You will not see any more ads now than you would otherwise see while on the Internet. They will not be any more intrusive or different from the standard ad formats you see across the Internet.

Robert Hafner: You just said they appear only on the Charter search website, and now you're saying they replace other ads- which is it?

TTD Grah : It really depends on what you are surfing.
TTD Grah : As our valued customer, we want you to be in complete control of your online experience. If you wish to opt out of this service, you may do so at any time by visiting www.charter.com/onlineprivacy and following our easy to use opt out feature. To opt out, it is necessary to install a standard opt-out cookie on your computer. If you delete the opt out cookie, or if you change computers or web browsers, you will need to opt out again.

Robert Hafner: I want to opt-out my household- are you saying the only way to permanently opt-out my household is to cancel my service?

TTD Grah : No, you have the option to opt-out the new program. Just visit this site: www.charter.com/onlineprivacy and then follow the steps.

Robert Hafner: But then I have to opt-out each individual browser of each account of each computer, and then no one can delete their cookies which creates other security issues. I want a way to opt-out my house- is there a way, other than canceling my service, that I can do that with?

TTD Grah : I am sorry, that is the only way to opt-out your computer or browser from the program.
TTD Grah : That is the only suggested way of doing it.

Robert Hafner: Thank you for your time. I'm going to be posting this on my website and emailing my clients in the area (I am in the Massachusetts affected area, by the way) so others can see the problems with this and cancel as well.

TTD Grah : You're welcome.
TTD Grah : I am sorrry, if this may cause you any incovenience.
TTD Grah : Have a wonderful day, sir!
TTD Grah : Thank you for choosing Charter Communications. Answers to frequently asked questions and self-help options can be found by looking in the "Customer Help" menu at www.charter.com. If you have further questions, please chat with us again. Our chat support is available from 7 AM through 1:30 AM central time, 365 days a year. Have a great day!

If you require further assistance, go to www.charter.com/contact

Your session has ended. You may now close this window.

You can opt out... (1)

TheMonkeyhouse (1271112) | more than 6 years ago | (#23395178)

According to the letter I got you can opt out. The FAQ is here http://connect.charter.com/landing/op1.html [charter.com]

It *seems* to be well dodgy nevertheless. I am still waiting for FiOS then i am gone...
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