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Hotel wireless Internet comes with more than you think

Those of us who travel a lot already know that free hotel Internet service is a little sketchy most of the time, but at the Times Square Marriott, the online service provider makes even crappy free hotel Internet service look good. Justin Watts had noticed something a little hinky when he loaded his own personal website while staying at the Courtyard Marriott in Times Square earlier this month. After a little investigation, he realized the hotel’s online service provider was injecting a JavaScript into every website he visited. The purpose? To inject ads and create a revenue stream for Marriott. What’s worse, Watts was being charged about $17 per day to use the hotel’s wireless Internet.

As a customer, you might be a little upset. After all, as Watts pointed out, “Imagine the hotel delivered complimentary issues of The New York Times to every room — except in this case, all the ads had been cut out … and on every single page, there’s a new ad that’s been stuck on top. How would you react? How do you think The New York Times would react?” More importantly, since the hotel’s ad injector didn’t play nice with YouTube’s interface, Watts could no longer access a huge portion of the Internet content he needed.

Marriott has responded to the claims, stating: “Preliminary findings revealed that, unbeknownst to the hotel, the Internet service provider (ISP) was utilizing functionality that allowed advertising to be pushed to the end user.” It also assured us it has pulled the plug on the ad injections. It’s important to note here that if the hotel were owned by a franchise group, its general manager would be responsible for contracting the networking services. So, it’s very likely that Marriott truly was not aware of this practice. I have to wonder whether Bruce Hoffmeister, Global CIO at Marriot International, hasn’t revised the corporate Internet usage policy already.

On the one hand, I can recognize the effort to drive business value through a potentially innocuous ad injection. On a moral level, however, some might consider the Javascript ad injection by the online service provider to be theft of ad revenue from every website visited by Marriott customers. The CIO serves an important role in guiding the delivery of services to a company’s internal and external customers. But how far do you go?

What do you think? Was the ad injection by the online service provider immoral? Or is this a case of competitive revenue-building through the customers’ use of the hotel’s wireless Internet? Is this any different from offering pay-per-view movies in the hotel rooms? The comments are waiting to debate this question of business propriety.

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He payed 17$ a day for the wireless internet but they injected ads? I would definitely not stay in that hotel again, there are a lot of other hotels that have free wireless internet and don`t hack into your computer to make revenues. When I stayed the last month in a hotel in huntsville alabama I had my laptop with me and the first thing I did when I entered the room was to check if they had wireless internet. I was not disappointed because they had 100mbit internet that was working flawlessly.
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