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Deep-Packet Inspection: Your ISP Could Be Spying on You

I’ve opted-out of Double Click cookies and those pesky Yahoo beacons.  I clear all but essential cookies daily, sometimes twice.  I trash Google cookies at every opportunity, in advance of searches.  Often, I tag Safari to "never accept" and reset my preferences on an as-needed basis.

If I’m not consistent in setting my preferences to "never," within minutes my browser is awash in cookies.  MSNBC.com holds the record, so far. 

As an experiment, I deleted all MSNBC.com cookies and returned to the website.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really like MSNBC.com but they have a BIG thing for cookies.  I only loaded the home page and did not click on a single link.  By merely accessing the home page, MSNBC.com dumped 21 cookies into my browser. 

Now, here’s another permutation - cookies on steroids.  It’s called deep-packet inspection.

(Caveat:  Multichannel has been talking about deep-packet inspection for awhile, as it relates to I.P. blocking, net neutrality etc.  Here.and Here.)

Snippets from yesterday’s Washington Post article, "Every Click You Make"

The online behavior of a small but growing number of computer users in the United States is monitored by their Internet service providers, who have access to every click and keystroke that comes down the line….

Although common tracking systems, known as cookies, have counted a consumer’s visits to a network of sites, the new monitoring, known as "deep-packet inspection," enables a far wider view — every Web page visited, every e-mail sent and every search entered. Every bit of data is divided into packets — like electronic envelopes — that the system can access and analyze for content……

The extent of the practice is difficult to gauge because some service providers involved have declined to discuss their practices. Many Web surfers, moreover, probably have little idea they are being monitored….

For all its promise, however, the service providers exploring and testing such services have largely kept quiet — "for fear of customer revolt," according to one executive involved.It is only through the companies that design the data collection systems — companies such as NebuAd, Phorm and Front Porch — that it is possible to gauge the technology’s spread. Front Porch collects detailed Web-use data from more than 100,000 U.S. customers through their service providers, Maxson said. NebuAd has agreements with providers covering 10 percent of U.S. broadband customers, chief executive Bob Dykes said.

In England, Phorm is expected in the coming weeks to launch its monitoring service with BT, Britain’s largest Internet broadband provider.

NebuAd and Front Porch declined to name the U.S. service providers they are working with, saying it’s up to the providers to announce how they deal with consumer data….

As usual, the Slashdot crowd has a lot to say about the issue.

ETA:  from The Register - two weeks ago BT Internet "admitted that it secretly used customer data to test Phorm’s advertising targeting technology last summer, and that it covered it up when customers and The Register raised questions over the suspicious redirects."