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Is Airtel Snooping on User Browser with Flash Networks Detective Code?

In a major shock to the Airtel Broadband users, a programmer in Bangalore tweeted saying that the TSP or service provider is inserting a code into their browsing sessions of 3G network secretly.

Thejesh GN, the Bangalore-based programmer also said Airtel has partnered with Ericsson and injecting the Flash Networks code into the browsing web pages and confirmed via GitHub that the Flash Networks actually owns the code.

However, Airtel defended in a statement saying the code was part of a tool to help browsers track their data consumption only that was stopped unilaterally by the TSP later. If true, Airtel could be snooping around its customers to track their browsing patterns which helps it in many ways to part with the information for money to advertisers or online retailers.

Airtel defended when squarely questioned about the code injection saying it was a standard practice around the world by telcos to help their customers keep track of their data usage in terms of mega bytes used.

“One of our network vendor partners has piloted this solution through a third party to help customers understand their data consumption in terms of volume of data used. As a responsible corporate, we have the highest regard for customer privacy and we follow a policy of zero tolerance with regard to the confidentiality of customer data,” it said in a statement.

If the vendor partner is Ericsson, then the third party is Flash Networks and Airtel may be trying to either help customers to track their usage but why didn’t the company inform its users ahead of the operation?

However, Rohin Dharmakumar @r0h1n tweeted saying that the Israeli firm Flash Networks “enables mobile operators to intercept their subscriber’s browsing, and insert their own content/ads.”

Flash Networks offers variety of services for telecom operators who are looking for new ways to monetize their data and large subscriber base, which the firm claims are non-intrusive coupled with adherence to privacy regulations. This provides TSPs to “communicate with their subscribers as they browse the web, and to offer them services that generate new downstream revenues from over-the-top affiliations,” says Flash Networks.

One service they offer is Layer8 , a clientless solution which appears over web pages on smartphones, tablets and PC enables users to get real-time access to carrier information, promotions, and other operator-based engagement.

Another service is Morefor.me offered by Flash Networks to mobile operators making use of the Layer8 infrastructure. “The service enables mobile operators to present content and services based on users’ needs and permission. Morefor.me is a revenue-share-based service, enabling operators to gain significant OTT revenues from day one.”

The final question comes to Net Neutrality, if Airtel has tested these two over the past one week. If not found by Thejesh, Airtel would hve easily circumvented the official route to offer revenue sharing model with those who accept TSP-linked ads and other information as they browse.

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