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Paxfire Snooping Scandal Gets Political Attention
Things Will Soon Heat Up For ISPs Involved
by Karl Bode 12:29PM Thursday Aug 11 2011
Last week Berkeley researchers and the EFF announced that ten ISPs were covertly intercepting and sometimes redirecting user search results for additional profit. This week saw a new lawsuit against hardware vendor Paxfire and RCN, with Paxfire denying that they've done anything wrong. The ISPs involved in the traffic hijacking stopped the practice dead in its tracks once the story broke, but as expected the quietly bubbling scandal is now seeing some political attention. New Scientist notes that things will likely heat up next week for both Paxfire and the ten ISPs involved:
quote:
Both Paxfire and the ISPs could be summoned before the Senate subcommittee on the Privacy, Technology and the Law, says Richard Blumenthal, a committee member and Democratric senator for Connecticut. Blumenthal says he will discuss the possibility with Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat who heads the committee. Blumenthal says he will also talk to federal and state bodies about possible legal action. He said that the conversations would likely begin over the next few days and could include the Federal Trade Commission and state attorney generals.

"These practices may well be a violation of law, including federal wiretap laws," says Blumenthal. "They are clearly a violation of trust that users place in ISPs."
You'll recall a similar controversy involving behavioral ad firm NebuAD, which folded after it was discovered they were tracking online user behavior using deep packet inspection -- in many instances without ISPs informing users or providing functional opt-out mechanisms. A similar fate may befall Paxfire, even though it was the ISPs that failed to disclose this behavior and may have violated privacy and wiretap law. The fact that all ten ISPs so quickly stopped the practice once the story broke should make it clear how concerned they are with the legality of the traffic hijacking and snooping.

Meanwhile, affiliate marketing companies like Commission Junction are busily trying to distance themselves from the growing scandal by insisting they had no idea this was going on:
quote:
In a statement emailed to ClickZ News today, a spokesperson for Commission Junction wrote, "We had no knowledge of this reported activity until last week. At the time, Paxfire was in fact a publisher in the CJ network. We have taken immediate action - Paxfire has been deactivated pending further investigation, and we are continuing our investigation of this matter."
As a reminder, the ISPs involved in this behavior were Cavalier, Cincinnati Bell, Cogent, Frontier, Hughes, IBBS, Insight Broadband, Megapath, Paetec, RCN, Wide Open West and XO Communications. Charter Communications had also used this technology but stopped doing so in March. None of the ISPs involved have been willing to comment on what they were doing, which also speaks to likely carrier concerns over whether what they were doing was legal. As we've seen with DNS redirection, some ISPs are so hungry for the added revenue this kind of new network hardware provides, they tend to forget to notify customers, ensure there's working opt out tools, or adhere to the law.

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Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Good.

I Know that nothing will come of this but at least it got some media attention.

However What bothers me about the idea of ISPs snooping search data almost more than the privacy issues is they want to keep raising the cost of their product. they want caps and overages and in the future bill by the byte, yet they keep profiting off our personal data while not kicking any kinds of discounts to the users whos data they are profiting off of.
--
[65 Arcanist]Filan(High Elf) Zone: Broadband Reports

pnh102
Reptiles Are Cuddly And Pretty
Premium
join:2002-05-02
Mount Airy, MD

3 recommendations

Wrong Headline

quote:
Paxfire Snooping Scandal Gets Political Attention
Translation: Paxfire's Campaign Contribution Checks Have Not Cleared
--
"Net Neutrality" zealots - the people you can thank for your capped Internet service.

Camaro
Question everything
Premium
join:2008-04-05
Westfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast

Kind of funny...

That every ISP has jumped on the caps,overages bandwagon.Then they run right out and jack up rates to cover whatever they pull out of there ass for a excuse every year,but to top it off they run right out and buy shiny new snooping equipment to make more of a profit off of us and don't even bother upgrading anything that would help with capacity of there network.

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: Kind of funny...

"That every ISP has jumped on the caps,overages bandwagon."

Every ISP?

dvd536
as Mr. Pink as they come
Premium
join:2001-04-27
Phoenix, AZ
kudos:4

Re: Kind of funny...

said by battleop:

"That every ISP has jumped on the caps,overages bandwagon."

Every ISP?

Every one thats got OVERPRICED VIDEO to protect has.
--
Oh YES! let me drop everything i'm doing regardless of who it affects to deal with your petty little problem!

battleop

join:2005-09-28
00000

Re: Kind of funny...

So that's not EVERY ISP... So maybe there is not a secret group that all ISPs belong to where we sit around smoking fine Cuban cigars and drinking only the most expensive whisky while plotting against all consumers?

Camaro
Question everything
Premium
join:2008-04-05
Westfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: Kind of funny...

I don't think they are sitting around sipping whiskey,but when one company decides to try something like the crap they have been pulling,the other company's play wait and see if how much backlash comes from customers,FCC if any.Then everyone see's dollar signs with no reinvestment intentions in the great networks they brag about on TV.

Anonymous182

@cox.com

It's *possible* the ISPs are unaware

It's not very likely, but it is possible that the ISPs truly didn't know that this was happening, if this comment is to be believed (from a previous story): »Paxfire is shady

The most relevant part:
Even though we ONLY use them for NXDOMAIN redirection, we've caught them performing this search hijacking in the past. The first time, they told me that they were requested to make the change by an individual that hadn't worked for us in 3 years. I raised hell about it, and they reverted it. Since then, I've been watching for it, and they've made 'configuration mistakes' to turn this back on more than a few times.

I very much suspect that they're intentionally turning this on without ISP knowledge to increase revenues, reverting it when they get caught.
cramer
Premium
join:2007-04-10
Raleigh, NC
kudos:9

1 recommendation

Re: It's *possible* the ISPs are unaware

Somehow I highly doubt that. The ISPs know exactly what it'll do (and what it is doing), that's why they bought it. If they don't have configuration control over the devices in their network, then they are incompetent fools and will be learning a hard lesson in criminal negligence.

(However, history has shown any "action" against them will be the equiv of a finger wag... "don't do that again". Any fine(s) will be laughable often amounting to pennies per customer, when these tactics earned them considerable money -- and that's why the greedy little bastards *ALWAYS* do it again.)

NOYB
St. John 3.16
Premium
join:2005-12-15
Forest Grove, OR
kudos:1

1 edit

Re: It's *possible* the ISPs are unaware

Yup. Penalties need to more than erase gains. And should be in form of a refund to customers (injured/violated parties). But if you really want strong action to be taken, have the penalties go directly to Congressional Reps. Sadly, money seems to be their only motivation as well. Well, right behind power that is.

Kind of reminds me of the Larry, Darryl, and Darryl Slogan; “Anything for a buck”.

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NOYB
St. John 3.16
Premium
join:2005-12-15
Forest Grove, OR
kudos:1

Call Redirection

The snooping part is bad enough. But imagine, you place a phone call and your carrier redirects your call to one of their buddies who impersonates the party you intended to call. Or how about this. Rather than redirecting your call they alter the conversation so neither of you actually knows what the other really said.

Imagine if phone companies did this with wrong / disconnected numbers. Oh we thought you intended to call the Whitehouse, FBI, CIA, 911, etc.

--
Be a Good Netizen - Read, Know & Complain About Overly Restrictive Tyrannical ISP ToS & AUP »comcast.net/terms/ »verizon.net/policies/
Say Thanks with a Tool Points Donation

cdr1000

join:2004-02-18
10100

Re: Call Redirection

How much can dumb RCN make on hijacking?

How will dumb RCN waste on legal fees?