Bell promises to keep an eye on customers, whether they like it or not 

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Seemingly undeterred, or oblivious, to all of the negative press about the U.S. monitoring pretty much everyone's cellphone activities, Bell Canada recently announced that it will begin monitoring its customers data usage in the name of ad-targeting.

The data mining is set to begin on Nov. 16 and for Bell users, that means phone call locations and durations, web use and download history and TV viewing habits.

Needless to say, most Bell users are not in favour of such monitoring and any inquiries to the company regarding users being able to opt-out have only resulted in Bell mentioning that users are able to opt out of receiving targeted ads, but not the data-mining itself. Basically, you can opt to not have targeted ads while using Bell's services, but they're still going to keep tabs on what you're doing at all times.

Hilariously, the provider even issued a press release titled "Bell to deliver online advertising relevant to customer while protecting their data," as if their PR speak could somehow soften the blow.

The release begins by describing how the program is set to protect the data of its users while incorrectly stating that no customer is required to participate in the program, making it seem as if they have a choice.

"This new program puts Bell in a position to compete with world players like Google, Facebook and others in focused online information delivery," said Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility and Residential Services in the release. "Offered first to our mobile customers, Bell looks forward to expanding the program to customers of Bell Internet and other services as we continue to seek new ways to improve the online experience for our customers."

What Oosterman fails to mention, or realize, is that Google and Facebook are offering their services for free, and collecting information and data for ad purposes is their main source of income. Users of those services can opt out at anytime by simply closing their accounts hassle free. With Bell, these are services that users are already paying a lot of money to use and are contractually obliged to continue using for years to come, barring any sort of change in terms such as this.

But that's where things can get interesting.

While those under contract with Bell Canada may be unable to opt out of having their data usage tracked and stored, there is a suggestion among outraged Bell customers to cancel their contracts with the carrier using the argument that this is a clear change of terms and services. While cancelling a mobile contract is generally an experience as pleasant as receiving a root canal, many are claiming this is a black-and-white case of a change in terms and services, allowing users to cancel their plans without the penalties normally associated with breaking a contract.

Bell's announcement has also caught the eye of the office of Canada's privacy commissioner, which has announced plans to investigate.

Paper bill fees to be examined

While mobile phone users in Canada can't seem to catch a break, it looks as if the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has decided to target one of big telecom's more blatant cash grabs: paper phone bill fees.

Currently, it costs about $2 a month for users to receive a paper version of their monthly phone bill. What was once deemed the norm is has been deemed a taxable offence by Telus, Bell Canada and Rogers Canada and users have pretty much had to deal with it.

Now, the CRTC is looking at potentially forcing carriers to claw back the paper bill fees following applications by two consumer groups for the regulator to do just that.

Following the CRTC's earlier ruling this year that mobile contracts can no longer extend past two years in Canada and the 2011 ruling against usage-based billing taking on blatant cash grabs like this is precisely what Canadians are wanting to see from them. Now if only the CRTC would do something about Bell's data mining...

Vancouver's Isohunt Shuts Down

It's been a sad month for torrent users as, one of the web's most popular BitTorrent sites, was forced to shut down following a lawsuit by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The Vancouver-based IsoHunt was created in 2003 by then UBC student Gary Fung. The site now boasts of more than 40 million searches a month.

But as the site's notoriety grew among the web's downloading community, it eventually caught the attention of the lawsuit-happy MPAA, which launched a lawsuit against the site in 2006 alleging copyright infringement based on the sites index of files.

While IsoHunt itself never actually hosted any of the files available for download, the MPAA seemingly wore down Fung in a battle of legal attrition, eventually succeeding in forcing Fung into settling the case. That settlement included Fung being ordered to pay $110 million (of which $2 million will actually be paid) and the closing of the site.


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