Once again one of America’s largest telecommunication companies is under fire for malevolent practices. This time, it’s a serial offender under fire, with Comcast injecting code into the websites its customers visit. That is despite it receiving a lot of criticism in the past for doing the exact, same thing.
What code is Comcast injecting?
The lines of code that are infiltrating the websites that customers visit come in the form of pop-up ads. These injections, typically inform them that they are in need of a new modem or another type of hardware upgrade. It seems there’s no accounting for necessity.
Some users who have been affected by this code injection, say they have phoned the number given. Although, only to be told that they need a new modem. These people later verified that they, in fact, did not need a new modem. So, the pop-up was a complete sham. To confirm that, some users had Comcast itself verify that their modem was not out of date. In fact, for the vast majority, no upgrade either hardware or software was needed.
What have Comcast themselves said?
Comcast has defended its practice, stating that they started using pop-up notifications all the way back in 2009. Doing so, let’s customers know if they have viruses on their PC and more.
They claim to resort to this method after attempting all other methods of communication including email, phone and letter writing. Additionally, this technique is apparently in the customer’s best interest. So, it appears that Comcast customers forgo privacy in favor of being made aware of any hardware upgrades needed.
When pressed on the issue, Comcast denied that it uses code injection to sell hardware upgrades to its customers. Instead, it sticks to the script that forcibly-informing customers about hardware issues, is excellent customer service.
Somewhat strangely, the company often refers people to its 2011 White Paper. The paper states that injecting code into websites is permitted but not for any advertising purposes! That would explain why Comcast is sticking to its story about not trying to sell anything.
Furthermore, when people have spoken to the company, they have been met with disinterest or even accusations. Often responses include, they should be reading their emails correctly. Apparently, Comcast argues that if its Customers had done so, they would have been aware of its popup injection policy.
However, in another twist, the majority of Comcast’s customer support team when pressed didn’t know that Comcast injecting code happened. Of the few who were aware of it, none knew how to turn it off. That is worrying, to say the least as it proves that employee training should be improved. This has led some people to believe the company knows it’s doing something which isn’t considered morally correct.
What’s so bad about Comcast Injecting Code?
With Comcast injecting lines of code into any website they choose, it is essentially using customer data/privacy for gain. An expert in the field said that Comcast is using deep packet inspection on subscriber connections. Doing so, allows them to send their messages to specific web pages. In layman’s terms, this means that they are modifying any unencrypted traffic going in either direction.
Although it appears that Comcast is doing this as a means of advertisement or to pass on information, it’s concerning. Meaning, that, for the recipient, there are scenarios in which this is no laughing matter. Some use these types of infiltrations for surveillance, censorship and even selling people’s personal information. That is incredibly worrying at a time when hackers and cybercrime are becoming ever more common. It shows just how involved our telecommunications companies can be in our lives, without us even realizing or consenting.
Do other Companies do this?
Many companies use similar techniques in order to sell us different things. The vast majority will send junk emails about services, or you may even receive texts detailing the latest in hardware. But this is the first time a company has ever been caught meddling in the websites that people are using, for their own personal gain.
Whatever your views on this story are, it’s safe to say that this practice is worryingly close to the surveillance and censorship that we’ve only heard about in novels like 1984. Is Big Brother watching, or are the telecommunications giants just trying to get away with some extra advertising?