Rogers & Content Substitition

The Canadian ISP, Rogers, is inserting content into the web pages of its customers. In effect, Rogers is, probably, illegally intercepting the content destined for a user and modifying it to display information some of which looks like an advertisement. In the case that’s been cited the most, the webpage that was hijacked was Google, although it could be any webpage. Google is “concerned”.

The Toronto Star reports:

Some bloggers noted the Rogers notice on Google’s search page seemed more like free advertising than a customer-service bulletin, since it suggested the user “upgrade to another level of service which provides higher usage limits and speeds by visiting”

Critics say Rogers’ move, though perhaps well-intentioned, could set a dangerous precedent that says it’s okay for the companies that pipe the Internet into people’s homes and offices to exercise control over their subscribers’ activity online.

Lauren Weinstein posted a screen shot as well as the code used to insert the content and suggests that the technology used is developed by PerfTech:

While Rogers’ current planned use for this Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and modification system (reportedly manufactured by “In-Browser Marketing” firm “PerfTech”) is for account status messages, it’s obvious that commercial ISP content and ads (beyond the ISP logos already displayed) would be trivial to introduce through this mechanism.

This is a truly unfortunate development. Not just because it’s probably illegal. The Telecommunications Act states:

Except where the Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.

I fear that “mission creep” is occurring. Many Canadian ISP’s are engaging in significant interference with the delivery of content — for a variety of reasons — including filtering of child abuse images (and in the case of Telus the a website set up by members of their Union during a labour dispute), the traffic shaping by Rogers and Sympatico to restrict Bittorrent and now the outright interception, modification, and distortion of content. These practices are being implemented with little transparency or accountability and are becoming the industry standard.

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