Recently, Clearwire has done amazing things to gain ground from within the wireless marketplace. Operating as one of those cool wireless Internet options that will likely help to put Bellingham Washington on the map, the company has been receiving both press and capital to help expand its vision. Unfortunately, it seems that its terms of service borders on paranoia and perhaps even an invasion of privacy.

A few days ago, I was looking at Clearwire as a backup Internet option. While it did not offer what I was looking for as my main source of connectivity, I figured it would be just the ticket for a good backup solution. Well, it looks as if this might have been a mistake.

The problem stems from something really disturbing in its terms of service:

“Clearwire is under no obligation to monitor the Service, but Clearwire may do so from time to time. Clearwire reserves the right to install, manage and operate one or more software, monitoring or other solutions designed to assist us in identifying and/or tracking activities that we consider to be illegal or violations of these Terms and Policies, including but not limited to any of the activities described in this Agreement.”

See anything there that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up? Some will argue that this is software to be installed on their end. Perhaps, but the wording is a little too fuzzy for my taste. I choose to take it as an attack on my personal hardware instead. I looked at Comcast and others for something similar – nada. Nope, Comcast did not have a similar provision in its TOS at all. The closest thing that Comcast had in its TOS was as follows:

“Comcast shall have no obligation to monitor postings or transmissions made in connection with the Service. However, you acknowledge and agree that Comcast and its agents shall have the right to monitor any such postings and transmissions, including without limitation e-mail, newsgroups, chat, IP audio and video, and web space content, from time to time and to use and disclose them in accordance with Sections 4 and 5 of this Agreement, and as otherwise required by law or government request.”

So basically, it may be looking at the outgoing data (easy enough to do anyway), but it does so by not installing an application your machine without consent. And granted, it may block ports, throttle bandwidth, and prove to be a royal pain in the butt. However I have not seen any evidence of Comcast forcing itself onto my hard drive.

Look, while the statement about software installation from Clearwire is a ‘could be’ type of thing, the fact that it would even put that in there when using Comcast’s approach is already an accepted practice leaves me a bit confused. I believe that Clearwire happens to be a neat company with a really cool vision for the future of Internet connectivity. Regardless of this fact, it also needs to consider revising its current TOS. As it stands now, I will never agree to it. And frankly, neither should you.

[tags]broadband,wireless internet,comcast,terms of service,clearwire,privacy intrusion[/tags]