Is Bell Canada Violating Privacy With Its Traffic Shaping Efforts?

from the another-way-to-look-at-it dept

We've seen all sorts of arguments against ISPs who engage in traffic shaping, but now some are trying to make a privacy argument against traffic shaping as well. A few months ago, the news came out that Bell Canada was engaging in traffic shaping, even for its wholesale ISP partners who promised customers open internet access. As a couple folks have submitted today, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa is claiming that in addition to other questions raised about this, traffic shaping may be a privacy violation, in that it uses deep packet inspection to determine what type of packets are being sent to figure out what to traffic shape. Bell Canada responds that it is only determining what type of packet it is, rather than what's in it -- but even that information could potentially be a privacy violation. While it seems unlikely that this argument will stick, if traffic shaping starts being seen as a privacy issue, it could put even more pressure on ISPs to stop doing it (and may encourage more users to encrypt their traffic).
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Filed Under: canada, privacy, traffic shaping
Companies: bell canada

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  1. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), 13 May 2008 @ 3:41am

    It is a privacy violation

    It is a privacy violation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), 13 May 2008 @ 3:44am

    Re: It is a privacy violation

    To inspect the contents of packets, I mean.

    If packets expose their QoS requirements, that provides enough info for traffic shaping.

    DPI is a privacy violation, not traffic shaping.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Matt, 13 May 2008 @ 4:17am

    It doesn't work

    I was with a Bell Canada reseller, and I had to switch because their traffic shaping doesn't work. It usually engaged during the evening and during that time my internet would either be complete dead or dial-up speeds for normal surfing. On top of that, I could never get on to any type of Online game like WoW, LOTR:Online or FF:XI (I had different friends try their games at my place) during these traffic shaping times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Shohat, 13 May 2008 @ 5:17am


    A person that simply connects to the internet, should assume that ALL his actions online are public, unless encrypted.
    Using a normal connection, which goes through dozens of switches, routers, providers and sniffers, and then whining about privacy is just idiotic.
    ALL actions done online are public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Sajon, 13 May 2008 @ 5:53am

    Re: Idiots

    So following your logic Shohat all communication on your telephone should also be considered public. Deep packet sniffing for the purposes above is the equivilent of the phone company listening to your phone conversations so they can sell your spending habits or likes and dislikes etc.. to retailers for a profit. No this is not what packet shaping is about but this analogy just shows that just because your data is flowing through public or private devices does not mean those in control of those devices are permitted by law to view the data for any purpose other than possibly diagnosis purposes. That is the law as it currently stands. The purpose of those routers switches and hubs is to prevent the "public" from accessing your data. Those who work with/on those router and switches are not the public and are legally obligated to ensure your info does not reach the public encrypted or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Shohat, 13 May 2008 @ 6:09am

    Re: Re: Idiots

    All telephone conversations (but unlike the net, including almost all encrypted communications) are also public.
    For a person to assume otherwise, is simply closing eyes and going "na-na-na-na" just because the person assumes that what he wants to be real, is real.
    In the real world, your traffic goes through many countries, many jurisdictions, for thousands of miles, by air and cable - anyone can monitor and analyze it as much as he wants, without you ever knowing it.
    If you are doing anything that you consider private/illegal while being connected via a simple unencrypted connection, it's mighty idiotic.
    All such communications are public.

    8200 represent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Overcast, 13 May 2008 @ 6:10am

    Since when does the Government or it's Corporate Lapdogs care about Privacy anyway?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    JJ, 13 May 2008 @ 6:42am


    Ok, so my ISP's computer inspects the content of my packets for the purposes of traffic shaping. And yet, there's not a single human being who has any idea what web sites I visited yesterday. So how exactly has my privacy been violated, if nobody can see what I'm doing?

    Every packet you send out on the internet is "read" by a dozen routers along the way. It's fundamental to the way the internet works. The packet has to be read by each router so that it can be copied to the next router along the way. It's just that, until recently, most of those routers didn't make any decisions based on the data in the packet, only on the header that says where to send it and how. Now, these machines -- mindless, automatic machines that have no higher-level understanding of the data -- are making decisions based on the content of the packets. Is this a problem? Possibly. Is it a privacy violation? Of course not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Wes, 13 May 2008 @ 6:58am

    Re: Huh?

    Well for one, they are doing this to resellers of the service. Whereby, I am a customer of XYZ dsl service reselling the Bell infrastructure that was paid for with public money. Bell is taking the step of opening the packets for which they have no legal right (as my contract has nothing to do with bell).

    So ya... that is a privacy violation.

    It would be equivalent to sending your mail with FedEx and having Canada Post inspect the contents because its on the same plane.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 May 2008 @ 12:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Idiots

    Perhaps we have a terminology issue here. Sure enough, anything you do online or say on the phone is not secure and may be intercepted by any number of folks. That does not make it public. Any of those folks who DO pick it up and even worse USE it for anything are the ones doing something wrong. That STILL doesn't make the info public, just unscured. You are correct that it is best to assume that anything you transmit online can be seen, but to assume it is automatically "public" is wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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