Last week, Rogers began experimenting with something called deep packet inspection to insert their own content into web pages that its users view. They began by displaying some users’ account statuses when they visited Google.
This is wrong for a variety of reasons. The information may (or may not) be useful in this case, but once you grant your Internet service provider (ISP) real estate on any web page they choose, where do you draw the line? What’s to stop them from inserting ads on Google’s homepage? What rights does Google have over the integrity of the content they’re trying to provide users? More importantly, there are better ways to display this sort of information for a user without altering the content of arbitrary websites, such as using a proxy page (as Mike Masnick points out in his coverage).
When your service provider delivers content to you from a content provider, you don’t expect them to alter that content. If your service provider is snooping through the content, that alone raises privacy concerns. But changing it is a clear violation of trust. When someone sends me a letter in the mail, I expect Canada Post to deliver it to me without opening it. More to the point, I expect the contents of that envelope to be from the sender, period. Would we grant our mail carrier the right to open up a piece of our mail and insert its own content packaged with the contents from the sender? That would be unacceptable, both to the sender and the receiver. If Canada Post wants to send me its own content, it is free to include that with my mail (ie. beside it), but not inside a piece of mail.
Rogers is my Internet service provider, not my Internet content provider. I don’t expect Rogers to be altering content sent to me from other sources (like Google). In the same way it would be unacceptable for Canada Post to open my mail and put something inside the envelope, it is completely unacceptable for Rogers to inspect my packages and insert something into a web page I’m viewing.
Rogers says it is experimenting with this right now and testing customer feedback. Let’s hope people realize what a dangerous precedent this sets and that Rogers listens to its customers. Miracles can happen…