It is 1) an invasion of privacy and 2) anti-competitive behavior.
Version 1 may be easily circumvented, but future versions could easily be tighter and more difficult to circumvent. For example, a contract with the mobile providers could make this something that no longer depends on in store WiFi usage.
This is the sort of thing that should be stopped in its infancy.
As with anything, if you aren't paying for it then you are not the customer.
Now, if they somehow convinced Verizon or ATT to interfere with the network access that I am paying for, that would be a problem and I'd stop doing business with both the carrier and the retailer.
Considering the plethora of choices, you would definitely win. /s Goes back to old George Carlin joke about belonging to a club and you not being in it.
Carlin's bit, for reference. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKUaqFzZLxU
But I completely agree with you - if you're getting a free connection, look for the attached strings.
I'm not so sure here. This patent only applies to Wi-Fi connections onto the Amazon owned network. So the client device must first broadcast their SSID (public), request access to a private network, then request data through the Amazon router (Inspected/Firewalled by default). It's Amazon's prerogative to block ports or IPs at their discretion as every router or VPN does.
2) anti-competitive behavior
It's definitely anti-competitive in spirit if they reduce information access to competitors - whether it's legally anti-competitive is probably a gray area and my guess is that the patent filers have already taken that into account.
Now I can understand if it said anywhere that it would actual tamper with traffic then it could be illegal, but as it stands it just says it might block or redirect them. Sounds like a pretty standard firewall to me.
Do they do it to block bandwidth hogs like video streaming sites (and "think of the children!" content, in schools), or is that coffee shop blocking review sites, info about competitors, etc? I think that what they're blocking and why is more important than the fact that they're doing some blocking/redirecting in the first place.
As the owner of Mimi's Cafe, I don't see why I can't block you from looking at AT&T's plans, or impair your Netflix.
So you're basically saying that if I'm using Starbucks' WiFi it's surely their prerogative to read my emails or whatnot ("inspect" my traffic)
That said if you're doing email over bare HTTP then you're broadcasting that data publicly over RF anyway.
This is why https is a thing.
Where do you draw the line with that? What if you were in a store, saw a product, and then asked the clerk 'can I use your phone I want to check the price at one of your competitors?'. Is that any different? Even if the phone line doesn't cost anything per call (it's a fixed cost let's say).
Competition, honest competition, doesn't require you to make it easy for customers to see if your pricing is fair or high or whatever. Mostly if stores don't enforce this (even with taking of pictures) it's because from a practical standpoint they can't enforce it or get employees to battle customers. Not because they don't have a right to do so.
That seems to be the spirit of anti-trust law:
The categories of prohibited conduct are not closed, and are contested in theory. Historically they have been held to include exclusive dealing, price discrimination, refusing to supply an essential facility, product tying and predatory pricing.
So in this case it could be argued that they are "refusing to supply an essential facility." That essential facility being unrestricted access to the internet - but I think its too precedent laden to hold.
After all, perfect information is a condition of perfect competition (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_competition)
"The one thing a capitalist fears more than anything else is a truly free market."
Future versions could also be more malicious, such as modifying the price or even availability of the item on a competitor's website if possible.
This is why we need to keep supporting both technical solutions such as VPNs and https, as well as political solutions like net neutrality.
What about the corollary to this - marking down a price in store for a specific shopper. This is something I've read about in regards to in-store tracking. A system could detect when you're likely to purchase something given some sort of incentive, and provide an on-demand coupon to your smart device.
Not really. It's only effective on their own wifi network. Disconnect and you're good to go.
> Future versions could also be more malicious, such as modifying the price or even availability of the item on a competitor's website if possible.
That would have serious legal implications, so I don't see it.
> This is why we need to keep supporting both technical solutions such as VPNs and https, as well as political solutions like net neutrality.
Or, you know, turn off the free wifi they are giving you?
> Not really. It's only effective on their own wifi network. Disconnect and you're good to go.
I don't understand how this response relates. It's still a huge ethical issue even if those people who are aware of it can learn to avoid it.
> That would have serious legal implications, so I don't see it.
I'm not as optimistic. ISPs have gotten away with modifying websites in the past, not as maliciously as this. But it's a step down that path.
> Or, you know, turn off the free wifi they are giving you?
Obviously I myself am not going to use the wifi. But I don't think just telling everyone you know not to use in-store wifi is a good long-term solution.
Those people should read TOS's. But seriously, don't connect to an open WIFI network expecting privacy.
Saying this isn't anti-competitive because customers can always ignore the free wifi misses the point: given the service issues in stores and the attractiveness of (usually) higher speed wifi, people are going to be drawn to it and no one is going to read the Terms & Conditions that say "Hey, we're going to try to prevent you from shopping for the lowest price!"
Also, it'd be legal to intercept or block traffic. It wouldn't be legal to change a competitor's website.
That's not much of an argument in the context of patents, because the sole purpose of patents is to prevent competition. All usage of enforceable patents is inherently anti-competitive behavior.
No, the purpose of patents is to make trade secrets into public information so knowledge isn't lost; allowing inventors limited monopolies isn't the purpose, it's the cost, it's the carrot that achieved the goal of getting them to disclose their inventions to benefit all of mankind. You've confused the carrot for the destination.
While this is already occurs for content that is considered illegal, broadening the content it can be applied to is dangerous.
They may block or throttle their competitors, or send you promotions for their products (or do the same things of their associates). Many people won't know or be able to detect that this is happening.
Amazon doesn't seem to be too concerned with how anti-trust law might be interpreted. I think they'll just count on the impotent FTC not having the resources to bring a case against them.
The problem I see is that they are fine doing it to others with their app, but not ok when it's done to them.
I've seen something similar to this at Target. Target.com is often cheaper than Target stores. And Target store matches Target.com prices. However, if you use Target app (not Target mobile/desktop website) in a Target store, the price shown will be the in-store price instead of online price. The Target Android app requests permissions to access precise location, pair with Bluetooth devices, and view WiFi connection.
In either case, starting an order with the app will show you the online price.
I was at a Target recently and noticed that the website price of an item was about two dollars cheaper than in-store. The clerks I spoke to at first wouldn't do the price-match, which was a bit frustrating. Eventually they did it, though so maybe it was just that store/clerk.
That seems like the wrong way around. If you're in a store, and checking Amazon, Amazon would want you to think the product is cheaper on Amazon, so you don't buy it from the store you're in.
In Amazon's case you don't even need that, you just need
to click a button.
It is very much in Amazon's best interest for competitors never to deploy a technology like this. I'm sure that lots of people have placed Amazon orders from inside of Target stores after seeing cheaper prices at Amazon.com, for example.
This could be a offensive patent in the since that they could aggressively pursue anyone who implements it, while never implementing it themselves.
There is also the possibility that if you don't file the patent, someone else will, and it's better for you to be in control of that property than to leave it for someone who is potentially much worse to obtain.
This is pretty much the dilemma involved in any willful abdication or refusal to seize property/power. It's particularly relevant to competent engineers who opt out of office politics because they dislike the BS, which means the task is left to the incompetent. This results in suffering for everyone.
If something is under your control, even if you're not actively doing much with it, you're preventing an adversary from taking it instead.
I suppose you could consider "blocking" to be tampering. Either way, the other options described are still open.
How is blocking and redirecting traffic NOT tampering?
As long as you're not being deceptive (e.g., inserting your own content, changing other content, changing prices), blocking and redirecting is probably fine.
For banks that don't encrypt everything, changing an advertised rate from another would probably run afoul of all sorts of illegal.
Ah, it seems that Best Buy did this but only on internal workstations, so that when the employee would access bestbuy.com, the discounted price online wouldn't show up: https://consumerist.com/2007/03/02/best-buy-confirms-the-exi... . However, they could trivially do this via wifi.
While searching for this, I also found this: http://adage.com/article/digital/retailer-jo-ann-aims-retarg... , which registers the device MAC on the backend and uses it to track how many times a user has entered the store (that is, connected to the store's wifi). Even VPN wouldn't stop this from happening, you'd need to randomize your phone's MAC address.
Public wifi is convenient but we shouldn't be naive about it. Companies are using it for their own purposes.
So what's the easiest solution for a lambda user!?
One reason among many that Bluetooth and Wifi are off on my phone when I leave somewhere. (Most of the time. I sometimes forget.) Aside from passive monitoring, we get things like this, where your personal devices become the equivalent of jailhouse snitches.
I don't see it as an invasion of privacy - it is their wifi. But it is an example of grabbing after every last nickel without considering ancillary concerns, like me thinking it is awful, icky, gross behavior and adjusting my exposure to that shit accordingly.
The FCC could just park a van in front of the store for 3 minutes and their tools would verify that a jammer was in use.
Here's the details on anti-jamming laws, and a list of people who have had their ass handed to them by the FCC for doing it: https://www.fcc.gov/general/jammer-enforcement
Would be interesting to try to detect if such interference is present on the right frequencies, or if it is just a natural effect and truly not intentional.
Thanks for sharing the info.
That pretty much describes 99% of indoor mobile coverage out there. The only exception being buildings that have ponied up for a femtocell.
Actual jammers? Unlikely because it's highly illegal, quite detectable, and will cost more than anyone could hope to gain by it.
Deliberate, passive measures that practically impede indoor reception may happen, though.
It does seem that some buildings are suspiciously effective Faraday cages while others are not.
Could it be something that makes the cell network jittery or adds latency that interferes with cellular data but not voice service?
I still turn off WiFi when I'm not at home though. Never need it unless it's one of those things iOS is unreasonable about (downloading large apps, syncing photos)
I think a lot of people don't appreciate that you really need to trust to a WiFi network you connect to.
They sometimes matter in a court enforcing a patent.
They rarely matter in getting a lawyer to send a cease & desist letter.
If there was any app in the world you would use to mobile window shop, it would be Amazon.
it's great too, because it's forcing retailers like best buy to at least be mildly competitive in pricing. I will actually buy things at best buy now if I really want them immediately, but it often requires telling them to give me the online price since it's marked up in store (which I guess is another form of this price comparing behavior).
I recently realized that even Wal Mart had lower prices for some things online, and now I have to go through the hassle of having them price match their own website when making certain purchases.
With destination shopping, e.g. to buy a new sofa or bicycle, customers have invariably been online already and chose the store that way.
Not necessarily. For $100-$1000 items I'll walk into a store without an intent to buy that day to price shop and if I'm tempted to buy I'll quickly check online and see if the store will price match. In the bay area I've actually had the store price match their own online store even though in store price had a '20% off sale'.
Seems pretty common for bay area stores to sell above their online prices and price match if you ask.
I usually use it when mobile reception is poor, not to save money. I've found poor reception inside larger stores to be a very common problem.
> But Amazon now has the technology to prevent that type of behavior when customers enter any of its physical stores and log onto the WiFi networks there.
Amazon definitely has the technology to make this happen.
It's illegal to jam or otherwise interfere with other's radio transmissions but it's not illegal to block them from your premises.
Not saying the cellular network is any better