The New Scientist reports that several ISPs are allegedly hijacking searches conducted on search engines and redirecting in order to make a quick profit.
A searcher would search for a keyword such as [apple] and the ISP may take that user through a redirect via an affiliate program to earn potential commissions on a merchant’s web site. The New Scientist explains:
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.
Google became aware of this earlier and has asked those ISPs to stop this practice but reportedly the practice is still going on with other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing.
It is unclear if this activity is actually illegal or not but Netalyzr’s investigation uncovered several ISPs conducting this practice including Cavalier, Cincinnati Bell, Cogent, Frontier, Hughes, IBBS, Insight Broadband, Megapath, Paetec, RCN, Wide Open West, and XO Communication.
For more coverage on this news, see Techmeme.
Postscript: You can read Paxfire’s rebuttal to these allegations in this press release.