Friday, 4 July 2008

Virgin says "no" to disconnection

This story is taken from TorrentFreak who are reporting that there is very little chance that they will follow through with the threats to disconnect their customers suspected by the BPI of participating in illegal filesharing. The original source of the admission appears over on the BBC Newsbeat site who claim there is "absolutely no possibility" that Virgin Media will take legal action against their customers.

This comes on the back of stinging criticism against the ISP who have issued 800 letters to customers over the last month warning them not to use "unauthorised peer-to-peer networks" like BitTorrent or Limewire to swap copyright protected files. The BBC have footage of a customer, Will McGree of Cardiff, who has been issued with one of these letters but denies its accuracy (a point I mentioned here yesterday). It seems difficult to reconcile both positions when Virgin Media are clearly bowing to pressure from the BPI, despite a lack of sufficient evidence.

Virgin have claimed they will not hand details of their customers details over to the BPI but it remains to be seen if they can be trusted to keep their word on this matter, especially since their associated business include music interests. Combine this with the fact that many ISPs (Virgin included) have been overselling their subscription capacities (and maximum download speeds) and are desperate to curb excessive bandwidth users and the picture looks less clear.

Disputing claims as to who downloaded what and when will soon become harder to contest if new Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) become the norm in places other than just Sweden. Until recently, the processing power required to inspect data packets has made this prohibitive, especially if they were encrypted (torrent files), as it required computers with massive computational power. Again, TorrentFreak carry the story:
"The other, arguably more sinister usage of DPI, is the growing interest by advertising companies to use deep packet inspection to observe what Internet users are doing. Watching your browsing activity, you can gain all kinds of insights into the user behind the keyboard. Similar to spyware, but on your line not your system, it’s not a good thing, and impossible to remove. Worse, it may be able to tell who is behind the keyboard at the time, by identifying trends in connection behavior."
Irrespective of filesharers, this kind of privacy invasion should have us all worried, especially if it is prone to abuse. It seems like hiding traffic in SSH VPN tunnels is now no longer a feasible alternative. Even our YouTube activity is under threat. The EFF have more info about the move which gives Viacom a lot of data to play around with. If ever the digital rights of the planet were under threat then it's now.


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