Thursday, May 15, 2008

Caught With Your Packets Down

There's an unspoken rule on the Internet that, unless compelled to do so by law enforcement, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don't actively monitor the sites your surf and don't look inside the data packets that travel across their network. In other words, when you send that nasty-gram to the Chimperor, though the Secret Service is probably taking a looksee at the tail end of the process, your ISP is just a neutral carrier that keeps their nose out-o-the-envelope.

Charter CommunicationIn fact, monitoring your Internet traffic was usually limited to scammers like Phrom, a company that dupes the unwary into accepting their tracking software in exchange for minor ducats. But no more. The massive ISP, Charter Communications has decided to start sniffing your data in order to serve you up some tasty ads right there in your browser. And, although they don't mention selling your data as part of their 'enhanced surfing experience' you can bet your bottom dollar that the number of times your visit is being bundled up for sale to the makers of Alvin and the Chipmunks tapes.

For those of you interested in the geeky side of this nonsense, the technology is called 'Deep Packet Inspection' and it's good for all sorts of things ISPs...and law about—from traffic throttling to porn prevention, sales to censorship. And Charter doesn't even give you the option of turning the tech off. You have to opt-out in a way that has to be repeated for every browser you use, on every machine you use. Good luck with that.

Seems those not-so-private surfing habits and about to get a lot less private.

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