BSNL Browser Code Is Taking Privacy To The Stone Age: #SaveTheInternet

BSNL browser code injection featured
Image: Unsplash

BSNL broadband offers affordable internet plans in India through the government-owned BSNL. However, the low up-front cost might be coming at the cost of user privacy. The Internet Freedom Foundation’s (IFF) analysis of BSNL code reveals why this is the case.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited or BSNL injects code into your browsers. The IFF has been filing RTIs and complaints about the same since 2019. The organization has published an analysis of the BSNL code injected on the browsers and found that it may be collecting and selling user data without the user’s consent.

Under the #SaveTheInternet movement, the IFF filed these RTIs and complaints. Earlier, BSNL replied to one of the RTIs, saying that providing information about the code injection would violate ‘commercial confidence’ and hurt BSNL’s competitive position. This clearly indicates that the ISP is getting commercial gains out of this browser code injection.

What Is The BSNL Browser Code Injection Doing?

BSNL browser code injection
A screenshot of the BSNL browser code (Image: IFF)

An analysis of the code by the IFF shows that the BSNL browser code is collecting a ton of information without the user’s consent. Said, if you’re using a BSNL broadband or fiber service, BSNL is collecting your data. It further reveals that the BSNL browser code shares your IP address and details of the websites you visit.

It is reported to be a session-based injection, which means it repeats at the start of every browsing session. This code injection is repeated hourly and is likely enabled by the cookies stored on your computer.

One of the ads being shown by the code is designed to present itself as an error page. While BSNL claims there’s no malware, the IFF says some known malware is being presented as ads by the BSNL code. The organization has also confirmed that the code is not a bug and is stored on BSNL servers.

Why It Matters?

BSNL is one of the major ISPs in the country, providing affordable internet access with a range of plans. While city-based users have plenty of options, BSNL broadband is the sole internet provider in certain parts of India. It is also among one of the biggest service providers in areas like Ladakh.

In rural areas, too, BSNL broadband is one of the major players. With that said, a clear privacy policy should be in place, and BSNL browser code injection should be on an opt-in basis rather than on by default.

Today, all major browsers are getting rid of cookies, opt-in consent is more popular, and privacy-focused apps are gaining ground. In such times, BSNL seems to be taking an outdated approach to user privacy.

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