Some ISPs Are Hijacking Searches For Profit

Aug 8, 2011 • 8:28 am | comments (3) by | Filed Under Legal Issues in Search

The New Scientist reports that several ISPs are allegedly hijacking searches conducted on search engines such as Yahoo and Bing and redirecting those users to other sites.

Let me quote the article to describe what happens:

The process is highly contentious. 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. Search engines are also being deprived of traffic intended for them. The ISPs are understood to have stopped redirecting Google search traffic after the company complained to them earlier this year. All the ISPs identified by the Berkeley team redirect some Bing and Yahoo searches.

The redirection can also produce unwanted results. A user wanting to read an article in The Wall Street Journal, for instance, might search for "wsj"; the redirection system would take them to a page offering subscription deals for the paper. Searches for "kindle" are sent to Amazon, the company that makes the e-book reader of that name. A normal search for the term provides links to Wikipedia, reviews of the device and links to Kindles for sale on eBay.

This behavior may be considered illegal. A New York law firm filed suit against one of the ISPs and Paxfire, the company reportedly involved in the hijacking.

It doesn't involved all queries, only specific ones that are mostly brand related. It also seems to only be happening on these ISPs; Cavalier, Cincinnati Bell, Cogent, Frontier, Hughes, IBBS, Insight Broadband, Megapath, Paetec, RCN, Wide Open West, and XO Communication.

This seems pretty crazy and I am surprised anyone would do this.

Forum discussion at HighRankings Forums.

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