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Paxfire, RCN Sued For Snooping
Paxfire Insists to us They've Done Nothing Wrong
by Karl Bode 11:19AM Wednesday Aug 10 2011
Last week we directed your attention to new findings by some Berkeley researchers and the EFF that shows that ten ISPs are using hardware to intercept and sometimes redirect user search results for additional profit. According to the research, the companies are using a technology provided by a company called Paxfire to generate additional revenue by tracking user search activity while occasionally redirecting traffic from popular search terms to affiliate partners.

Given that none of the ISPs involved have clearly notified customers of this technology, they're potentially violating the law. No ISPs have been willing to comment on the allegations for just this reason. What's more, after the story went public, all ISPs involved stopped the practice -- which tells you plenty about how legal the effort probably was.

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Not too surprisingly, a new class action lawsuit has now popped up accusing both Paxfire and RCN of violating both federal and state laws. "This interception was done secretly, without users' consent or knowledge, in violation of federal and state laws, and in breach of RCN's agreements with its customer," the complaint states. It notes that Paxfire technology is allowing ISPs to covertly hijack search traffic, occasionally redirecting users to "dummy pages laced with ads" instead of real search results.

Paxfire has reached out to us stating that while they can't comment on specifics because of the suit, they essentially deny -- well -- everything.

"Paxfire does not and has never distributed or sold any information on users, either individually or collectively," says the company in an e-mail, adding that they "never, ever" collect, monitor, store or sell personal data on users, collectively or as individuals, nor do they hijack searches or impersonate search engines. "This would be fundamentally contrary to our service mission, which is to improve the user experience by helping users arrive at their intended website after having mistyped a web address," says the company.

Most of our readers will be aware that "improving the customer experience" in this industry is usually code for making an additional buck by doing something consumers will probably find annoying (be it DNS redirection, new caps or price hikes). Paxfire may be using semantics -- accurately denying that they themselves do any of this activity, despite the fact their hardware allows ISPs to. While only RCN is being sued, researchers fingered ten ISPs that are using Paxfire tech: Cavalier, Cincinnati Bell, Cogent, Frontier, Hughes, IBBS, Insight Broadband, Megapath, Paetec, RCN, Wide Open West and XO Communications. Charter also used this technology, but stopped in March -- likely due to legal concerns.

"We partner closely with our ISP customers to ensure the service is operated not only in full accordance with the law and end user agreements, but also in a way that provides a good user experience," says Paxfire. Except according to the researchers who discovered this behavior and the lawsuit, there's no specific language in any customer agreement that informs users this behavior is going on. As a result, Paxfire may find themselves under fire in much the same way behavioral advertising firms were for violating both privacy and wiretapping laws.

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Katzendreck

join:2003-09-29
Calgary, AB

Cool gimmick

Good luck with that damage control.

FiReSTaRT
Premium
join:2010-02-26
Canada

Re: Cool gimmick

said by Katzendreck:

Good luck with that damage control.

People are still buying Nike and Sony

rchandra
Stargate Universe fan
Premium
join:2000-11-09
14225-2105

Re: Cool gimmick

ummm....Nike? What's up with Nike?

Sony I can understand due to their thorough screwing of both customers and, by extension, artists in their rootkit/music DRM attempt shenanigans.

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

Re: Cool gimmick

said by rchandra:

ummm....Nike? What's up with Nike?

History of child and/or sweatshop labor in the factories they contract through.

Also more recently, there was a controversy regarding drug themed shirts.

i wouldn't exactly rank Nike up with Sony on the corporate evil chart if that is what the OP is referring to.
hottboiinnc
ME

join:2003-10-15
Cleveland, OH

Re: Cool gimmick

Sony still has the history of the sweatshops/child labor factories - just like Wal-Mart but still shopped by Millions.

88615298
Premium
join:2004-07-28
West Tenness

How much money is enough?

God damn does everything got to be about the almighty dollar when you're making BILLIONS already? Do people have to still be assholes just to earn a few more?

FiReSTaRT
Premium
join:2010-02-26
Canada
Reviews:
·Velcom

Re: How much money is enough?

said by 88615298:

God damn does everything got to be about the almighty dollar when you're making BILLIONS already? Do people have to still be assholes just to earn a few more?

Yes, and oh my GOD, HEEEELL YEEEAH!
--
I'm pretty sure the small hole isn't a reset button, but is actually a microphone hole. So best not to stick anything inside it. (credit: Rashdan@slatedroid)
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1
said by 88615298:

God damn does everything got to be about the almighty dollar when you're making BILLIONS already? Do people have to still be assholes just to earn a few more?

Sadly yes, what really bothers me is the ISPs are just itching to get us on usage based billing with small caps and huge overages while still charging 40+ a month for the connection itself and then they also want to sell ever bit of data they can so they can feed us more ads.

Ads that count against your bit bucket of course, and these days ads can include streaming video so get used to that overage because a video ad popped up(Ok not for everyone, Smart people use a browser that they can load Adblock into, but still the point is there)
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

TWH

@bell.ca
said by 88615298:

God damn does everything got to be about the almighty dollar when you're making BILLIONS already? Do people have to still be assholes just to earn a few more?

There's no such thing as a free market.

Welcome to the Mythical Free Market, a grinding soulless guiltless amoral system wherein a corporation exists with the sole imperative to increase return on investment to shareholders and anything done in that pursuit is fair practice.

HarveyRabit

@windstream.net

Wiretapping

How is this not wire tapping?

Transmaster
Don't Blame Me I Voted For Bill and Opus

join:2001-06-20
Cheyenne, WY

Just had a horriable thought

getting Paxfire records on Rep Barney Franks internet use.

Where is the barf bag.........

ctceo
Premium
join:2001-04-26
South Bend, IN

Re: Wiretapping

It's on their property.

cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

Re: Wiretapping

said by ctceo:

It's on their property.

Then telcos shouldn't need the courts to sign off on wiretap warrants*. I mean, the switching equipment is on their property...

* - Yes, I know about the "illegal" NSA wiretaping fiasco...

ctceo
Premium
join:2001-04-26
South Bend, IN
Reviews:
·Virgin Mobile Br..

Re: Wiretapping

I've had to clarify this before. If they know you won't know they have no interest in telling you, and probably wouldn't. They only do so for good public face. They don't want people thinking that they act on their own without any oversight, but they do when it is in their interest.
pinjas

join:2011-01-31
River Falls, WI
It's not wire tapping because you aren't going to tell them it's wire tapping. Because nobody is going to go smash down their doors and tell them that it's wrong.
Maybe I am merely sheltered to these things, but I have -never- met a single person who was able and willing to actually stand up for their personal freedoms and rights. In this situation, in the best case senario and the only situation that I've seen to hold any action (however incredibly weak those actions may be) a 'customer' will subscribe to someone else's terrible service. That's it!

In the vast majority of the situations, no freeman stands up and does anything about anything even though there is absolute real and necessary reason to do so.

I saw a sign once on a car mechanic shop billboard.

It read,

"Land of the free? Home of the brave?"

ctceo
Premium
join:2001-04-26
South Bend, IN

Re: Wiretapping

It should say more appropriately:

"Land of the enslaved, home of the coward".

coldmoon
Premium
join:2002-02-04
Broadway, NC
Reviews:
·Windstream
Actually, the best sign ever to grace a garage's office wall was the one my best friend's father owned when we we kids:

"A lack of planning on your part does not create an emergency on mine!"

The "freemen" voted for these people time and time again, yet complain when they see them giving exactly what they told them they would get.

Is the coffee strong enough now?
--
Returnil - 21st Century body armor for your PC

rchandra
Stargate Universe fan
Premium
join:2000-11-09
14225-2105

Re: Wiretapping

said by coldmoon:

The "freemen" voted for these people time and time again, yet complain when they see them giving exactly what they told them they would get.

What I don't understand is why the US Amendment XXII only applies to Presidents. What I'm hoping for is an amendment which encompasses Reps and Senators too. Maybe such an amendment could also update XXII so that the LCM of terms would be the limit...in other words, currently, since Senators are 6 yrs, Reps are 2, and Presidents are 4, the limit would be 12 years. But at the same time, I would like to reduce all the terms too, with the justification that society now has the tools to communicate far more rapidly, therefore we're stuck with these rascals too long. Let's say halve all the terms.

Hopefully that'll somewhat alleviate the "vote for people over and over" problem we seem to have for everything BUT the Presidency. Shorter terms would hold all reps/execs more resposible and responsive to their constituents, while retaining the intent of republics to limit mob rule.
--
English is a difficult enough language to interpret correctly when its rules are followed, let alone when a writer chooses not to follow those rules.

Jeopardy! replies and randomcaps REALLY suck!

OOLUser

@optonline.net

Frontier

I want to see action taken against Frontier Communications.

Bastardized

@comcastbusiness.net

When does the non-sense end?

Would love to see an end to all DNS redirection (that is, if you can't return the correct address, don't return anything). It is annoying, useless, and potential for bad things to happen is increased.

Wish ISP's would learn to just provide Internet access and not try to provide these "value added services".

rchandra
Stargate Universe fan
Premium
join:2000-11-09
14225-2105

Re: When does the non-sense end?

I don't know what the immediate answer is, but I know what you're saying. Think of the Site Finder abomination.

Long term, widespread "complete" deployment of IPv6 could help. The key is that encryption is mandatory to implement but at the same time optional to utilize. Ergo, provided the encryption and authentication is strong enough not to be niggled into by the likes of Paxfire, there is no opportunity for any such redirection.

DNSSEC could also potentially alleviate this problem. But that requires widespread client implementations and widespread zone signing, neither of which is particularly prevalent.
--
English is a difficult enough language to interpret correctly when its rules are followed, let alone when a writer chooses not to follow those rules.

Jeopardy! replies and randomcaps REALLY suck!

Byebye

@rcn.com

Revenue

Is the only way rcn can generate revenue. They are bleeding customers to time warner, Verizon, comcast.Not like their TiVo is making a killing for them.