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Consumers Beware! Your ISP May Be Paid To Spy On You

The C/Net Digital Media blog reported:

"Jerry Scroggin, the owner of a Louisiana Internet Service Provider, says he's skeptical of a service that proposes to pay ISPs to police their networks for pirated music and movies... Scroggin argued that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) should help pay the costs incurred when they ask ISPs to chase down suspected music pirates. Days after the story was published, antipiracy firm Nexicon contacted Scroggin about a plan to share money collected from accused file sharers with ISPs."

Previously, small mom-and-pop operated ISPS argued that they couldn't afford to perform the file-sharing policing work requested by the RIAA -- work which large ISPs could afford. So far, any policing work by ISPs has been free of charge. If the RIAA pays ISPs for this policing work, then that could represent a fundamental shift in getting ISPs to participate.

"Film studios and the major music labels frequently ask ISPs to crack down on copyright violators... Under the RIAA's new plan, ISPs would also be asked to suspend the accounts of chronic offenders. That means an ISP might be forced to wave bye-bye to paying customers without receiving any compensation. If ISPs could somehow be compensated, it might encourage them to become copyright enforcers."

For consumers who are wondering who Nexicon is and what they do:

"... tracks those people who infringe on intellectual property and sends take-down notices to their ISPs... As part of Nexicon's "Get Amnesty" service, the company tries to obtain fees from those it claims are guilty of violating copyright law. Nexicon sends e-mails to those accused notifying them that they must "settle" with the copyright owners, which typically means paying a fee. After opening the email, the infringer clicks a link to visit GetAmnesty.com, where they can settle their infringement to avoid legal action and receive a legal release from the copyright owner"... Nexicon then offers to help ISPs manage the take-down notices they receive from, well, Nexicon and competitors."

Well, this is just peachy. This represents another way for ISPs to make money besides monthly fees from their Internet subscribers. Last year, Congress uncovered behavioral advertising programs by ISPs who both didn't inform their customers and didn't provide their customers with opt-out mechanisms. And the near future may include money-making optons for ISPs by enforcing music copyright protection.

All of this is enough to make consumers wonder if their ISPs operate in their best interest. Consumers pay a monthly fee and expect, in return, that their ISP will meet their Internet-access and data security needs. If ISPs begin to make more money from file-sharing policing and behavioral advertising programs than from monthly Internet-access subscriptions, then the situation seems ripe for ISPs to stop meeting the needs of their paying consumer customers.

It's pretty clear that many ISPs want a share of the advertising dollars they seeing going to Google and to other advertising networks. Will this growth come at the expense of consumers' personal data? Some ISPs vow to do better, but will they?


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joe malley


great article. you need more articles in this area since it is a major issue

joe malley

[email protected]

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