Your Wi-Fi Network, A Public Utility

An alarmist story about a new Amazon patent filing:

People have been using Amazon to compare prices since the site made its debut in 1994, but soon Amazon may kill customers’ ability to do just that in its own brick-and-mortar stores.

Amazon — which just announced the nearly $14 billion purchase of upscale grocer Whole Foods on Friday — was recently granted a patent that could be used to track customers’ web surfing in stores and interfere with where they go online.

Hijacking cellular data? Unconscionable! But wait:

The patent, aptly titled “Physical store online shopping control,” details a system that would prevent customers from comparing prices in Amazon stores by watching any online activity conducted over its wi-fi network, detecting any information of interest and responding by sending the shopper to a completely different web page — or even blocking internet use altogether.

So this patent is about altering content delivered on their network. You know, like hotels do when they ask you to sign in. Or what your workplace does when you join it. What schools do.

You know how you get around Amazon’s patented Internet-filtering? Pay for your own Internet. Use cellular data if you must go to an Amazon store and comparison shop online. Otherwise, you’re expecting–as the author of the article might–that you have some sort of right to wi-fi access without any strings attached. Which you do not.

Which would be turn around, hey? Real stores have forever claimed that people come into the shops to see what they want to order on Amazon.