Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
Businesses Communications Privacy

Comcast Wants To Charge Broadband Users More For Privacy (dslreports.com) 182

Comcast believes it should be able to charge its broadband users who want to protect their privacy. FCC, on other hand, has indicated that such practices should not be there. In a new filing with the FCC, Comcast says that charging consumers more money to opt out of "snoopvertising" should be considered a perfectly acceptable business model (PDF). DSLReports: "A bargained-for exchange of information for service is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the U.S. economy, including the Internet ecosystem, and is consistent with decades of legal precedent and policy goals related to consumer protection and privacy," Comcast said in the filing. The company proceeds to claim that banning such options "would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings." In short, Comcast is arguing that protecting your own privacy should be a paid luxury option, and stopping them from doing so would raise broadband rates. But as we've noted for years it's the lack of competition that keeps broadband prices high. It's also the lack of competition that prevents users upset with broadband privacy practices from switching to another ISP. That's why the FCC thinks some basic privacy rules of the road might be a good idea.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Comcast Wants To Charge Broadband Users More For Privacy

Comments Filter:
  • Nothing New ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:13PM (#52637523)

    AT&T has being doing this since they announced GigaPower, their 1GB/1GB service.

    $100 / month if you want your privacy, or $70 if you let them snoop

    • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:40PM (#52637769)

      That's what they advertise, but it's really more than that... The $70 rate takes a 2 year contract (so not really an option if you are renting on a smaller interval). If you opt out of their spying, it's not just $30 more per month, there are also equipment fees that are not replaceable with buying the hardware outright and waived with the spying plan, so it's really closer to $50 per month to not be spied upon.

      • VPN service for $10/month is a cheaper option.
        • Added latency
      • ... so it's really closer to $50 per month to not be spied upon.

        And they'll still spy on you, they'll just call it something else, like "Customer Satisfaction Metrics" or some such bullshit. But either way, they'll still spy on you.

        • by sudon't ( 580652 )

          ... so it's really closer to $50 per month to not be spied upon.

          I'm paying $50 per year not to be spied on. I shouldn't have to pay anything, of course, but I can trust my VPN a lot more than I could ever trust my ISP. And, supposedly, my encrypted traffic is disguised as regular ol' HTTP traffic by using XOR, (I admit, I haven''t done the research), so unless they take a "deeper" look, they don't even know I'm using a VPN. Comcast is taking advantage of the ignorance of the average user. It's essentially a protection racket.

          Comcast: "You need to pay us to protect you."

    • And I wouldn't trust them to NOT "snoop" even if you DO pay the $100/mo... Comcast (and Microsoft) can go FUCK THEMSELVES......

  • ...just saying that I'm damned glad I'm no longer a Comcast user. Satellite Internet may cost a bit (and don't ask about bandwidth caps), but at least I get to keep my privacy.

    I would say that flopping over to DSL or a different competitor (if possible) would be a possibility, but I doubt it would be too long before all the other massive telecoms decide that "...hey, let's monetize and intrude the crap out of our customers the same way!"

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:46PM (#52637815)

      From the article:

      "In short, Comcast is arguing that protecting your own privacy should be a paid luxury option, and stopping them from doing so would raise broadband rates. But as we've noted for years it's the lack of competition that keeps broadband prices high. It's also the lack of competition that prevents users upset with broadband privacy practices from switching to another ISP. That's why the FCC thinks some basic privacy rules of the road might be a good idea.

      So, unfortunately, instead of actually solving the real problem - the lack of competition, the FCC thinks "basic privacy rules might be a good idea." I mean, while I agree with that, it's just papering over the real issue. I understand that the FCC itself can't do anything about that, but I just can't see anything changing for the better in any significant way until we manage to break Comcast's near stranglehold on many areas of the market.

      Also, Comcast's arguments about trading services for user information neglects to mention one tiny little fact: Most of the services that provide users a service in exchange for harvesting user information are providing a completely free service, like G-mail or Facebook, and many users seem to be fine with that. Comcast is "double dipping" - charging a significant amount for a paid service AND also trying to earn more by snooping on their customers. That's a completely different thing, and Comcast will have a hard time convincing anyone that they need to do this to remain profitable or that this is forcing them to keep rates high. The notion that allowing them to snoop on users would actually end up lowering rates is laughable. Users don't have any choices in many cases, so there's no pressure on them to keep rates competitive.

      • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @03:36PM (#52638273) Journal

        The competition problem is the last mile problem. Fix the last mile problem by moving the end point for Comcast from the Home/Business to a COLO facility managed by the local municipality. Then open up the doors to any / all competition at the COLO facility.

        That way, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Google, HBO ONLY, Netflix .... can all offer their version of "service" as needed, even enhancing their offerings with new and innovative services such as Comcast's "snoopvertising" suite. Then we can let the market decide what TV shows and Internet the market wants.

        I realize that this is an ALIEN concept of letting FREE ENTERPRISE solve problems by having the Government get out of the way. No Need for ANY regulation to control Net Neutrality or even needed the FCC to rule on the crap Comcast is spewing.

        • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @04:11PM (#52638597)

          This is basically the model of municipal roads.

          The municipality builds the roads, and private industry uses them to provide whatever services they can think to sell that involve transportation. The government doesn't really get into the transportation business or businesses built on transportation of goods.

          There are minor exceptions, like the post office or mass transit, but there's also generally demand for this or some long-settled precedent for providing them. But there's no calling city hall to order a pizza.

        • They tried that a long time ago (see also Utah's UTOPIA [wikipedia.org] initiative), but they didn't get very far before Comcast and Qwest (now part of Centurylink) both brought suit against the State Legislature to squash it. The legislature happily compromised, saying that UTOPIA was not allowed to expand beyond the neighborhoods it already existed in. It currently still exists in a somewhat crippled form: https://www.freeutopia.org/ [freeutopia.org]

          Go figure, right?

          • When Crony Capitalism is in force, there is tyranny. I'm a Libertarian, and this kind of market interference is not ethical nor should it be legal. But you get what you pay for when you elect Democans and Republicrats.

        • by sudon't ( 580652 )

          Are you implying that forcing ISPs to terminate at a "COLO facility managed by the local municipality" is a "free enterprise" solution? How would you do that without regulations? That a city-owned facility which stands between customer and ISP is "having the Government get out of the way"? Are you being sarcastic? I mean, I like your idea, but that third paragraph, unless you're trying to be funny, is almost a non-sequitur. Sorry, it's not always easy to tell.

          • What regulations would be required?

            The ISP (Comcast) gets a direct line to their customer (ME) via a switch interface. No regulation is really needed. If Comcast sucks, I ask to be hooked into ATT, Verizon, HBO, Netflix or GeeksRUS Internet (10GB speeds for only 29.99/mo).

            Free Enterprise meaning the MARKET between me and a vendor of my choosing is not artificially limited by Government deciding what is in my best interest (franchise agreements)

            • Why does the municipality have to own the last mile and the COLO? In Canada the CRTC forced the incumbent telephone and cable companies to open up their COLO facilities to competitors. So they still make a bit of money on the last mile and probably for hosting their competitors equipment in their facility (not sure on this last part but I'm sure they weren't forced to give over space for free).

              As a customer I'm free to choose my provider and the type of server (DSL or cable). My data goes over the incumbent

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          the problem is you don't even realize you're calling for regulation.
          you repeatedly refuse to recognize the utility of regulation.... ...even while calling for the use of it to enable free enterprise.

          you are the guy who will stand up and say "I DID IT ALL MYSELF!",
          while ignoring every bit of government support you received along the way, whether it be your public education, the roads your goods/services travel on, or whatever.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      What about slow speeds? [grin]

      I have a bad feeling that all companies will be doing this pay more for privacy. :(

  • by LichtSpektren ( 4201985 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:14PM (#52637535)
    Comcast complains that the FCC won't let them put remote controlled explosives into their modems in order to bring lower prices to customers.

    "A bargained-for exchange of customer's safety and well-being for higher prices is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the U.S. economy, including the Internet ecosystem, and is consistent with decades of legal precedent and policy goals related to consumer protection and privacy. [Not letting us put explosives in modems] would harm consumers by, among other things, depriving them of lower-priced offerings," Comcast's representative writes.
    • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:32PM (#52637703)

      ...A bargained-for exchange of customer's safety and well-being for higher prices is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the U.S. economy,...

      He left out one important caveat --- when there is adequate competition present so that the consumer has a choice, when the company in question does not lobby legislative bodies to reduce or eliminate that competition.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Qzukk ( 229616 )

      Actually, to be relevant, the explosives have been there for years. People discovered the explosives and called Comcast out on it. Comcast responded by charging extra to disable the explosives (they're still there, but they're disarmed. Honest!)

      There is no option for "cheaper" Comcast. You get to pay what you're currently paying to live with the explosives, or you get to pay more and live with the hope that the explosives really are disarmed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The last couple of weeks have seen a massive influx of Putin trolls, Hillbots, North Koreans declaring war, all sorts of conservatrolls and libtards, and an intense round of baiting by the communist Chinese, and yet...
    Comcast manages to make me twice as pissed off as all the rest of them combined.

  • by JeffOwl ( 2858633 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:16PM (#52637549)
    JFC, how low can they go? They really need some competition. 15 years ago when I had DSL the phone company had to allow third party ISPs to offer service on their infrastructure. Time to apply this to cable (and back on the phone company as well) and regulate the infrastructure as a utility.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:22PM (#52637611) Journal
    If they're legally allowed to do this, then I AM DONE with Comcast once and for all. I already dumped cable TV years ago, and only use Comcast still for internet because I'm too lazy to change it -- but if they're legally allowed to hold my privacy for ransom like this, then they'll get kicked to the curb so fast it'll make their heads spin. I don't even care if I have NO internet at home, I won't put up with protection-racket bullshit like that, no fucking way.
    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      Get a VPN service. That's one of the few ways to actually get some privacy.

      I can forsee a not-too-distant future where that's the default for almost any internet connection.

      • That amounts to about the same thing though; I'm paying extra for privacy, and there's no guarantee that the VPN service isn't sifting my traffic, too. The only thing that would accomplish is not paying Comcast their Danegeld. Also if they're actually allowed to do that, then it's not a stretch at all for them to say 'using a VPN is a violation of Terms of Service'. They need to be firmly told 'NO!' to this, and also firmly told 'You will NOT spy on people's traffic'.
      • by Burz ( 138833 )

        VPN is a good idea anyway, if you need to use access points you don't really trust. Good ones like publicinternetaccess.com cost about $40 per year (about $3.30 / mo).

  • Really, moving the world to encrypted-by-default is the only solution for this sort of silliness. Then, they can do deep packet inspection all they want to, and all they'll get is a hostname, at best.

    • Really, moving the world to encrypted-by-default is the only solution for this sort of silliness. Then, they can do deep packet inspection all they want to, and all they'll get is a hostname, at best.

      You're not wrong. Unfortunately HTTP isn't the only protocol for Internet connections, and even if it was, HTTPS deployment is not at a high enough rate. Far too much stuff travels the net in plaintext right now for people to not be concerned about their privacy.

      The only viable solution right now is to have your router forward all of your packets through a VPN. Non-geeks aren't technically savvy enough to do this sadly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Using HTTPS does not prevent comcast knowing what websites you visit. It only prevents them seeing the content, and that is if they don't have a certificate position in your browser's trusted certificate store.

      If they do have a trusted certificate (which could easily be installed by their "Here, run this program to set up your new Comcast service. Be sure to run it on every PC!"... anyway if they do end up tricking you into trusting their certificate, HTTPS is useless to you because they can just MITM you (

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        As I said, they would know the domain name, and that's it.

        As for an ISP installing a new root cert, most operating systems require explicit authentication before installing a new root cert. If Comcast asked me to run something that requires root as part of setting up my service, the answer would be "h**l, no." And it should be that way for every user, though I know that for a lot of folks, it wouldn't be.

        The thing is, though, if Comcast tried that, they would quickly get caught and excoriated. After all

  • Comcast argues that a service costing $10 can be sold for >=$10, or sold for >=($10 - market_price_of_information). By extension, they claim a user has access to that service for a lower price through this exchange, and propose offering a decision: (pay <$10 AND have the service AND leak personal information) OR (pay $10 AND have the service AND NOT leak personal information) OR (pay $0 AND NOT have the service AND NOT leak personal information).

    Summary makes a luxury option claim, arguing for

    • Where are you getting your France numbers from? According to my wife who lived in France for 2 years (albeit around 5 years ago), she got faster internet, home phone, TV, and wireless service for about what we pay today in the US for just internet.

      • Some French guy on Slashdot was talking about how he gets free mobile phone with 2 hours of talk and spends ~30 euros ($32) on 10Mbit DSL yesterday, and couldn't believe American internet was so expensive ($80).

        Quantify "faster" and "about what we pay today" with numbers.

    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      You assume that 10% margin isn't subject to all kinds of legal tax voodoo first...which I highly suspect is the case. Considering other providers in countries can provide the same (well, better anyhow) service for significantly LESS I really doubt comcast is really operating on that margin.

      See 'hollywood accounting' for examples of those who have made an art of it.

    • Comcast is more than likely engaging in "Hollywood" accounting [wikipedia.org] so I would take anything they say publicly with pillar of salt.
    • Comcast argues that a service costing $10 can be sold for >=$10, or sold for >=($10 - market_price_of_information).

      Except it can't, because the latter option is unethical and should be criminal!

      • Your argument is that it's unethical to enable people to access things they couldn't otherwise access. Ethics are bullshit, man. Ethics are what you use to excuse "X is wrong, but my ethical guidelines say I must X, so I will X." Ethics are why you withhold life-saving medication and watch people die, slowly and painfully. After WW2, when the Nazis were put out of power, people came across all this documented medical research; they debated *not* using it because it would be *unethical*, because it was

    • by Burz ( 138833 )

      The reason this is BS (and totally unreasonable) is that turning a customer's privacy into a commodity is wrong. Like the anti-Net Neutrality argument, you can't make a case for this using blinkered economics that avoid the ethical/moral issues.

      • Of course I can. The strongest case I can make is nobody is selling my private identifying information--bank accounts, social security numbers, credit cards--or my personal life. They're selling records of my public interaction, or aggregate statistics.

        People get all up-in-arms about something like Facebook selling statistics that they have some number of users who, between certain hours, have interest in My Little Ponies *and* are 28-35. They sell advertising in blocks like that, and someone buys an

  • If they were calling this a discount for accepting advertising instead of a premium for lack of it, nobody would have an issue with this. The only difference between the two is that this is a stealth price increase that they hope will bypass regulators' notice (it might).

    Mainly, this means that Comcast's PR people are idiots, but that's hardly news.

    • Well the reason they word it that way is when they roll it out to "customers" it will be an "accept advertising to keep your rate" or "pay more for the same service you were getting before" type of situation.

  • It should more correctly read "Comcast Wants To Charge Broadband Users More"

  • Is extortion or shakedown a better word to describe the practice?
  • Using Unlock, Ghostery, Disconnect.me, and the like, are forbidden under our new Terms of Service. If you want these features, you must buy them from us in the new Privacy Plus package, only $40 (for six months).
  • by MitchDev ( 2526834 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:46PM (#52637803)

    Comcast is so full of shit.

    More reason for the government to take over internet access, run the fiber, and hook every house up, no caps or snooping. Provide the pipe and get out of the way.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      More reason for the government to take over internet access, run the fiber, and hook every house up, no caps or snooping. Provide the pipe and get out of the way.

      ROFL.
      Yeah, that's just how it would go if they took over, too...

  • From what we've seen, companies have a massive incentive to violate consumer privacy in the form of free-market competition for advertising. The better the ad-platform, the higher the market value, etc. With this model, businesses who fail to deliver on explicitly purchased privacy are immediately guilty of false advertising. More than that, Comcast may have a vested interest in keeping -others- from snooping, too. It's good advertising to say your broadband connection actively combats to prevent unauthoriz

    • Yeah, because privacy is a privalege, not a right...

      (Rolls eyes)

      Are you so myopic that you cannot see that when you have to purchase privacy, you don't actually have privacy at all, and worse still, only the wealthy will be able to afford it.

      Do you really not see how this will lead to shocking double standards, how it will lead down to dystopia-land, and how it stems from a very wrong headed idea that simply because a dollar can be squeezed out of something, it should thus be squeezed out?

      Instead, what actu

      • You definitely aren't entitled to free social media, free email, free photo hosting, 15gb of free cloud storage, free video hosting, etc; Those services operate under the predicate that you permit (see: give up) your right to "privacy."

        The abstraction is relative: we can charge $5 for shipping, or markup the product $5 and claim shipping is "free."

        Eitherway, if the company who creates the products you use free of charge is unable to monetize personal data, then the income differential ultimately will come f

        • I don't WANT any of those services.

          What I do want, is a simple metered pipe on which the data of my choosing may flow in or out of the internet.

          The insistence that i must lurchase provisioning for these services that i neither want, need, nor use, and demanding remuneration for, is akin to somebody rushing up to my car and giving the windshield a quick spray and squeegee, then demanding my phone number so they can monetize me via robocalls, in exchange for the "free" service i neither requested nor wanted.

          B

  • So what corporate America is saying is that privacy is only for the wealthy now? They have the right to data mine the personal info of the poor for profit and force them to be bombarded by advertisements designed to fool the viewer into thinking they need whatever it is they're being told they need ( pretty much brain wash them into buying more and more Chinese made crap)?
  • So, the money from selling your data, both today and in the future, has already been booked and spent. So, from Comcast's point of view, they're losing money. From our point of view, Comcast can fuck right off with their selling us bullshit, but since they've already spent the money, they think of it as a loss. Assholes.
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @03:08PM (#52638045) Homepage Journal
    Regardless of how the regulatory arcana reads ("information service" vs. "telephone service"), the expectation of subscribers to Internet service is the same expectation they have for telephone service -- namely, that The Phone Company will operate as a Common Carrier and will not listen in on phone calls.

    It would be interesting to know if Comcast makes any attempt to differentiate VoIP calls from other IP traffic and avoid snooping on it.

  • Not only should it not be legal, they should be obligated to give 100% of the ill-gotten gains they've received from doing so in the past to the customers whose privacy they violated.

  • comcast: "Pay us or we will spill your beans to the highest bidders" me: "no!!! and I just cancelled your service"
  • how much you want to bet that even if you pay to opt out, Comcast will still be collecting personal data about you and selling it.

  • and stopping them from doing so would raise broadband rates.

    It doesn't matter what they claim, being a customer of Comcast will cause them to raise rates. I've lived in the same area for well over a decade. Originally I had Adelphia until they fell apart and were absorbed by Comcast. I paid $35/ month for my internet. It has been creeping up over the years since Comcast took over and my last couple of bills have been $95/ month. Up from $85/ month until recently.

  • Will using TOR defeat their snooping? I'd think it would. Also I routinely use HTTPS Everywhere and Redirect Cleaner; or do they do man-in-the-middle attacks on my encrypted traffic so they can snoop on that, too?
  • I support Comcast on this one:

    LEGAL BASIS
    This does not violate network neutrality. Data sent over ISP is not protected by any other laws I know. It's legal.

    FINANCIAL BASIS
    My internet is cheaper, and no less secure.

    TECHNICAL BASIS
    The explicit spying incentivizes HTTPS adoption.

    • My internet is cheaper

      No it's not. They're planning on charging more for privacy, not discounting anyone.

    • by Burz ( 138833 )

      Actually, turning something like privacy into a sale-able commodity is known as extortion.

      Your assertions are all bogus, BTW. It does affect security for the advertising industry (a major spreader of malware) to have spying ability into basic communication infrastructure. If the ISPs themselves become arms of the ad industry, they become untrustworthy by definition.

  • "A bargained-for exchange of information for service is a perfectly acceptable and widely used model throughout the U.S. economy, including the Internet ecosystem,"

    Yes, when both parties have a choice whether or not to enter into that agreement. I don't trust Microsoft, so I don't use their free services. Google so far hasn't abused my info, so I use their free services. (I set up a different email for each company, and google@myname.com hasn't gotten spam. microsoft@myname.com regularly gets spam. Ind

  • But take away their carrier privileges.
  • Anyone ever hear of a piece of software that will generate random HTTP requests to random websites? I want to generate huge amount of 'random noise' so Comcast loses any 'signal' they could get out of me. Doesn't need to load whole pages, just needs to do something like a basic GET of a page, throw the data away, then another, and so on, until you shut it down. I think hundreds of thousands or millions of random page requests per month will more or less screw any of their 'snooping'.
  • Vinny believes he should be able to charge local businesses who want to protect their shops...Vinny says that charging local businesses more money for to opt out of "random security checks" should be considered a perfectly acceptable business model....

  • "... stopping them from doing so would raise broadband rates ..."

    I don't believe there is anything here on this Earth or anywhere in the freakin' Universe that could ever stop US broadband providers from continuously rising their incredibly high prices. About privacy, you should've already gotten used to loosing all versions of it - both in the US and elsewhere -, and don't expect to actually have better privacy even if you end up paying for it. They'll still give every information to everyone asking for
  • Here in Chicago they are now charging $10/month rental fee for their modems. But if you buy your modem, and they have to send a tech out to you, they charge $50 per visit even if the problem has nothing to do with the modem. Insane price hikes all over the place with these crooks and the service isn't very good to begin with. But because I live in an apartment building, I don't have a choice of providers.

    They're already harming consumers. They should be forced to sit down, STFU, and be given a government re

  • There, we are at last discussing why it sucks to have any digital information on the clouds.
  • "Say, that's pretty nice personal information you got there.
    Be a shame if anyone got their hands on it...."

Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man -- who has no gills. -- Ambrose Bierce

Working...