Columbus Ohio Internet Usage Unknowningly Monitored for Profit

I just found out my Internet Service Provider (ISP) called WOW Internet and Cable has been monitoring our web traffic since March of 2008 for profit. The monitoring takes place by installing hardware made by NebuAds within the ISP’s network, WOW Internet in my case. Web traffic from WOW Internet customers (like me) is routed through these hardware devices for tracking. The data (html, javascript, images, etc…) that customers like myself request from web sites such as Google could be modified in order to display targeted advertising. According to DSLReports, WOW cable (and other NebuAds clients) can make at least $2.50 a month per customer.

I was made aware of this by a local TV station here in Columbus, Ohio.

When I spoke with WOW today, they informed me that I was recently made aware of this change when they sent me a notice in the mail of recent change in the terms of service. Like any trusting customer, I did not read the fine print. The notice did not come with a cover letter explaining what part of the notice changed and/or why. See Third Party Advertisers section of WOW Internet Terms.

Notice that in the WOW Internet Terms they created an acronym for “Personally Identifiable Information” as “PII”. The way the acronym is written in the sentence it implies that it encompasses other items. Make no mistake, they clearly state that PII is your name, address and phone number and nothing else. They do not state that IP addresses are PII. In my opinion, your IP address on the Internet is just as personally identifiable as your telephone number or street address. An IP address identifies you on the Internet so data knows where to be directed over the entire World Wide Web. The same can be said about telephone calls and snail mail. Apparently WOW does not believe that your IP address on the Internet is considered “personally identifiable information” even though IP addresses have been continually used to identify individuals and is commonly added to header information of many Internet protocols such as email and web browsing.

Users may opt out of the service on a per browser bases using cookies. This means that anytime I decide to switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox, Opera, Safari or another computer for that matter, I have to remember to follow a procedure (that I currently do not know) to add a cookie to each browser I use to turn this tracking off. Further more, I now have to do this for every computer in my home and for anyone who visits who uses my Internet. This means that browsers used in my home must support cookie handling, removing my choice (or anyone else in my home’s choice) of turning off cookies in web browsers. For 3rd party applications (Non web browsers) that use the Internet (such as to download or check for product updates) will continue to be tracked by WOW.

WOW Internet is the 12th largest Cable provider in the United States. WOW has been using NebuAds to profit from its customers since March/April of 2008. For the past three months, WOW has made more than $7 from myself alone. I have yet to see any savings passed onto my bill. It appears this $2.50 is an additional revenue stream for WOW and is not something they are using to pass savings to their customers in exchange for invading their privacy.

The 3rd largest cable provider, Charter Communications, recently decided not to use the NebuAds service to make money from its customers. Charter decided to abandon the practice following the release of a report that caught the interest of the United States Congress into the legalities of the adveritsing targeting mechanisms.

The most upsetting aspect of this whole thing for me personally, is that I’ve discovered that this tracking is known to cause problems with Google Gmail. I use Gmail and Gmail for my domains and have come to rely heavily on Google’s Gmail service. Since March I have experienced issues with Gmail and for the longest time have presumed Gmail was the problem. Now that I know that my ISP, that I’ve been paying over $100 a month to provide me reliable access to the Internet, may have been the cause of the problems I’ve been experiencing with Gmail frustrates me greatly. I’ve lost a lot of time and productivity with the problems I have had with Gmail. Email is a vital service, especially for someone who requires not only for tracking and paying bills but for employment and work as well.

I’ve called and notified WOW that they will have to contact me in 7 days to let me know that they will no longer be tracking my Internet and have stopped modifying my Internet traffic. Otherwise I will switch to another ISP. They have until July 7th to resolve this issue, or they will loose me as a customer. If after July 7th, they do not rectify this problem with their service, I will contact federal, state and local government representatives in my area of WOW’s shady practices, notify my neighbors what WOW is doing with their Internet usage, and make it a point to NOT recommend WOW for Internet services.

WOW, you have 168 hours. What is your answer?

UPDATE (GREAT NEWS)

WOW cable called me today (Thursday) at about 4pm to let me know that they are removing the NebuAds for all of their customers! I no longer need to switch ISPs! What an emotional roller coaster but unlike some businesses apparently WOW does listen to its customers. I’m going to stick with WOW now that they will no longer deploy this questionable intrusion of advertising in my web surfing.

As soon as I have a press release to link to I’ll create a new blog post about it.

Why does Angelo Love Cheese?

Okay, you got me. I use the slogan “I love cheese” a lot. Here’s why:


Link: The Power of Cheese Commercial

The commercial dates back to the 1998/2000 elections and was used for the “Ahh, the power of cheese” series of commercials. Check out the actor who plays “Hayes for President”, he later was president in the TV show 24 a few seasons back.

And in all honesty, I do love cheese except for a couple specific cheeses, such as Feta and any cheese that’s moldy except for Parmesan. Parmesan is supposed to be moldy, right?

Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/2of2ws

Verizon Wireless Privacy Changes – Bad Practices

Well, I just found out about the Verizon Wireless Privacy Changes, they want to sell my information. They want to sell your information too, if your using their cell phone service. If you don’t call 1-800-333-9956 within the next few days, your information will be sold. And we’re not talking your name and address, Verizon has changed their terms so they can sell companies your calling information. They are concerned about your privacy, concerned enough to make money by removing it.

Here is a web link to Verizon’s new CPNI Privacy Information.

Jehovah’s witness solicitation

I don’t have a problem with religious people going door to door soliciting their message. Even if I don’t agree with it, this is America. But I’ve had some Jehovah’s witnesses visit our home a few times now. They park across the street, walk right up to the door and ring the door bell. Two times I didn’t answer the door and three times I did. When they leave they go right to their car and drive off. They aren’t soliciting the neighborhood, they are targeting me.

Today they visited while I was mowing the lawn. I’ve told them a couple times now that I am Catholic. Well today they went on to ask me if I thought the world was coming to an end. Boy I wanted to give these a piece of my mind but I held back and told them I wasn’t interested and walked away.

There may be some honest and reputable organized religions out there, but from the education I have obtained over the the years, I’ve associated organized religion as a way for the strong and manipulative to take advantage of the weak and frightened.

In my opinion, the best thing someone can do who seeks spiritual guidance is read a Bible, or what ever other religious or spiritual book that inspires you, and make your own decisions on what everything means. As Thomas Paine once said, “My mind is my church”. Just remember to use reason, as it is human to seek the answers we want rather than the answers that are true or unanswerable.

Tis the season of giving COMPLAINTS

Have you herd the new craze? Everyone’s calling their local shopping retailers and complaining about the word Christmas being missing from their stores. How dare you retailers for referring to the December shopping month as the Holiday Season. Apparently many of them did not get the memo from Bill O’Riley that all other holidays in December are not to be acknowledged under the same season as Christmas.

Christmas under attack

And Bill O’Riley wants you to know where each major retailer stands on Christmas.

Christmas shopping information

My Take on This
First off, complaining about such a thing goes against what Christmas is supposed to stand for. I am very troubled that so much energy by a select few who call them selves ‘true Christians’ when food drives for the most needy this ‘Christmas season’ are seeing a donation shortfall.

I hate to single out particular types of people but it is very obvious that this is a Right Winged blown out of proportion conspiracy or campaign. I like to refer to this stuff as ‘press injected waste’, because it is typically only dished out by Right Winged sources. It helps reinforce my theory that Fox has an agenda since they are the only of the 4 news networks to make it a consistent report in their news.

I see this Right Winged influence with commentators and news reporters as a threat to Freedom and what America stands for. We are a nation forged in compromise. With every generation we have grown to accept other cultures, religions, thoughts and ideas. This is what makes us the greatest nation in the world.

We, the United States, have always been the home for the refuge of the world’s persecuted, from the Pilgrims, Irish, etc… If we never opened our arms to such non Christians such as Albert Einstein we may have never had an atomic program and may have well experienced even greater tragedies in the Second World War. The Christmas Season of 1945 could have been a sad time full of death and additional suffering. This Jewish scientist could have been the reason your father or grandfather was spared from being involved in an invasion of Japan. AND YOU DON’T HAVE THE RESPECT TO CALL THIS TIME OF YEAR A HOLIDAY SEASON.

This movement to so easily influence one idea upon all worries me. Studying history, this kind of conduct is what ruined the Roman Empire, drove Germany and the Third Reich, and what caused many other democratic governments to fail.

Reflection
Will this Anti-Holiday Season initiative move past businesses and start targeting individuals? I have not heard of anyone sending the same hate letters to the President of the United States. I guess it is acceptable for him to refer to the ‘Christmas Season’ as the ‘Holiday Season’.

Bush’s secular greetings

Now I would love to see a list of retailers who feature products that are Made in the USA. I don’t see this list on Bill O’Riley’s site. I think if you bought something that helped put a paycheck in a fellow American’s wallet would be much better gift for this Holiday Season.

My Plea to You
If you did make such a sinful call or write a devilish written letter to a retailer or store, please, I beg you, dig into your heart, and please stop turning Holiday Season as a tool for hate. Take that energy and donate some food, because that is what Christmas and the Holiday Season is all about.

Secret Agent Man – Blow your cover?

I was wondering the other day about secret agents. After some thinking, I came up with a lot of questions.

  • Do you have a strict diet?
  • Are there particular missions you cannot do if you snore?
  • Do you have medicine to counter the effects of particular food?

See, I wonder first off, if you are a secret agent or spy, what kind of diet do you have to follow. I know a diet is important in order for one to function, but normal people such as myself can get away with eating crap and living with some gas for the afternoon. A spy on the other hand, may blow their cover, literally!

Now what if you snore and you were supposed to steak out somewhere. Again, this could just blow your cover if you fell asleep. Now, I know your not supposed to sleep but I am sure there could be situations where you can lay low till the morning as long as you keep quiet your pretty safe. That’s where the snoring could ruin it for you.

Finally, are there special pills you take to stop farting? I bet there are. I also bet the existence of such pills are covered up by the government. Joking!