Rogers|Yahoo, a Canadian ISP, has been experimenting with technology that enables them to modify page content before it gets to you. Shown in the Ars Technica linked previously, is the Google.ca homepage with a huge banner proclaiming that the user has used 75% of his or her bandwidth.
The ISP claims that their intended usage is not site specific and that they won’t be displaying ads. However, PerfTech Inc, the maker of the evil software, prominently advertises “ad insertion” as one of the major uses. Though Rogers states that they have no current plans to inject ads into web pages, plans change, do they not? You can bet that ads would come soon after.
Unless laws are put in place to stop the ISPs, this will happen in the United States (and probably other countries eventually). ISPs have no right to modify the contents of web pages before they reach your computer. Besides adding in obtrusive messages and advertising, what else could they decide to change? Suppose Microsoft wanted to cover-up bad reviews of their products. They could pay the ISPs to modify the contents of pages to contain glowing reviews rather than criticism. With technology like this is use, you couldn’t trust anything you read online.
What about inserting advertisements? That’s totally illegal already. By forcing their ads to display when people view your website, the ISPs would be making money off your content without your permission. You spend time and money maintaining a website, and you invest your time creating content. Then the ISPs come along and make money off your hard work.
I think that all of us who maintain websites can agree that we don’t want this.