Monday, November 17, 2008

Net Spying Firm and ISPs Sued Over Ad System

According to a lawsuit filed in federal court Monday "net eavesdropping firm NebuAd and its partner ISPs violated hacking and wiretapping laws when they tested advertising technology that spied on ISP customers web searches and surfing."

So what exactly is all the ruckus about? Wired Magazine reports:

NebuAd paid ISPs to let it install internet monitoring machines inside their network. Those boxes eavesdropped on users' online habits -- and altered the traffic going to users in order to track them better. That data was then used to profile users in order to deliver targeted ads on other websites.


"Like a vacuum cleaner, everything passing through the pipe of the consumer's internet connection was sucked up, copied, and forwarded to [NebuAd's] California processing center," the suit reads. "Any alleged anonymizatin of subscriber's identity and data – if in fact any such occurred, occurred after the phase of initial interception which provides the basis of this class action lawsuit."

That logic -- that the interception of an Americans' communication stream is illegal even if later thrown out --is no stranger to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, where the suit was filed.

That's the same argument being made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in its suit against AT&T for allegedly building an NSA internet spying room inside a switching facility in San Francisco. That suit and dozens like it targeting other ISPs and phone companies are being handled in the same court house in San Francisco.

Let's hope this class action suit is awarded what it seeks, both in terms of damages as well as an injunction against any similar behavior in the future. Remember, this wasn't some small, isolated incident. WideOpenWest, one of the ISP's named in the suit has already admitted that it let NebuAd monitor its 330,000 broadband customers for four months, starting in March, 2008.

Click here to read more.

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