A new addition to the Net Neutrality debate is in the form of alleged “search engine hijacking” by ISPs which, according to a report by The New Scientist, have been engaged in redirecting searches by users on engines like Yahoo and Bing to websites of the ISP affiliate (rather the loading the search results page). Online Media Daily reports:
The report says the ISPs are working with the company Paxfire for the initiative; ISPs and Paxfire allegedly have deals with affiliate marketers like ValueClick’s Commission Junction, which get credit for taking users to the marketers’ landing pages.
“A user who searched for ‘apple’ would easily have found the company’s store via a search engine, so Apple may be needlessly sharing revenue with Commission Junction and the ISPs,” states the report. “Search engines are also being deprived of traffic intended for them.”
As noted in the report, what seems most troubling here is the privacy and net neutrality implications of the ISP’s actions. Obviously ISPs here are allegedly sharing users’ “private” searches with affiliate third-parties, and just as obvious is the fact that these searches are allegedly “hijacked” to take users to affiliate websites rather than allowing users to pick from a list of search results. As Eric Goldman of the High Tech Law Institute points out, “If the allegations are true, I expect there will be lawsuits galore.”
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