Virgin Media Using Deep Packet Inspection To Spy On Your Internet Usage For Hollywood

from the how-nice dept

Last year, there were early reports that ISP Virgin Media in the UK would become a copyright cop for the entertainment industry and start kicking file sharers offline if they were accused of infringement. While Virgin later denied this, the company did send letters threatening to kick users offline anyway. And, now, reports are coming out that Virgin Media is starting to use controversial deep packet inspection technology to spy on users to see if they're sharing any copyrighted works. As the article notes: "It's the equivalent of the Royal Mail opening every parcel to see if there's a CD inside, and making a note if there isn't a receipt in there too."

While this is just a test, and the information is being aggregated in a supposedly anonymous way just to judge the extent of the problem, there are a bunch of issues with such claims. First, there is no such thing as an anonomyzed dataset. Second, there are some pretty serious privacy questions raised by this. In the US, the use of Deep Packet Inspection for looking at what users do has been frowned upon, but in the UK it's been deemed not so bad by the legal system (however, the wider EU doesn't agree with the UK on this position). No matter how you look at it, it does seem quite extreme for your ISP to carefully look at everything you do online. In the end, of course, this will only serve to drive up the demand for encryption technology.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 1:53am

    Currently, deep-packet inspection is illegal in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 (amendment 2006). Not even the police can sue it with a court order.

    I fail to see how a non-enforcement agency can possibly be on the side of legality on this.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    cc, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 2:14am

    I remember reading about Detica CView, the software they are using for this.

    It really is just to measure the amount of "piracy" that takes place, as it apparently offers no way to pin anything on any particular user.

    Detica said that they have no plans to ever change the software to spy on individual users.

    What will the data tell the ISP though? If 50% of their traffic comes from piracy then 50% of their money comes from piracy. Would they just agree to cut it off?? I don't see how ISPs can benefit from all this, or that it even makes business sense to keep offering internet services in the long run.

    Basically.. dear Mandy stay away from my family.

     

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  3.  
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    PaulT (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 2:31am

    Beyond the privacy issues, my main objection to this kind of thing is how they tell whether or not the content is infringing, and what they do with that information. Both are extremely flawed and ripe for abuse and false positives.

    Let's say I'm downloading a movie file named "House On Haunted Hill.avi". Is this a copy of a feature film, a mislabelled file or a home video that happen to have the same title. If it's the former, is it the public domain 1950s original, or the remake that's still under copyright? How can they accurately tell?

    I have serious doubts that the correct information will be gathered every time. Combined with the proposed 3 strikes laws and the fact that this would open the floodgates for ISPs being liable for every piece of traffic (along with the pressure for them to censor said traffic), this is a dangerous path indeed, that will leave many people wrongfully penalised.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 5:08am

    Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it's a non-issue.

    You sort of have to get over the concept that your internet data is some how private. It passes through many different hands on the way to you, and any one of those stops could duplicate or inspect your data without notice. Using the internet is a bit like shouting across a crowded room, don't be surprised when more than a few people know what you are talking about.

     

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  5.  
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    abra kadabra, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 5:14am

    It's frikin Magic

    Assuming that DPI can tell the difference between a movie and a text file, how do they know what is infringing ? Or do they just assume that everything is infringing ... that text file could be infringement of a book.

     

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  6.  
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    justasking, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 5:15am

    Re:

    Did you possibly miss the point ?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 5:29am

    Can I wrap my connection around something with DRM? As it is illegal to crack DRM.
    As it is I mask my IP to make it appear like it coming from the white house.

     

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  8.  
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    Amoron N. Ahurry, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 5:41am

    Re:

    "Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it's a non-issue."

    Interestingly, the only people who think like this are RIAA puppets or morons.

    I'm just curious, which are you?

     

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  9.  
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    McBeese, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 6:24am

    "In the end, of course, this will only serve to drive up the demand for encryption technology."

    Exactly.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Re: Re:

    When did you stop hitting your wife?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 7:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    right after she made me a dammed sammich

     

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  12.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    If you look at Sweden after the new copyright laws were put in place, you will see an increase in the use of VPN's Proxie servers and encryption. Basically what Virgin is doing will cause this to occur before the laws in the UK are changed. The use of FreeNet and I2P will increase, Linux use will increase, apps like Xine and Mplayer will be used to view DVD,s.

    I really see this as a good thing, it means more people concerned about privacy, more use of encryption, and less ability to track people doing file sharing.

    In the end it will make the internet and communications more robust, more private, and less likely to be abused by government and private companies.

     

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  13.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 8:07am

    Re:

    Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it's a non-issue.

    And that's why you will allow us to scan everything you do on your computer, right? Otherwise, what are you hiding?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    "Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it's a non-issue."

    Ah the old, 'The doors to your home are locked, what are you hiding' mentality.

     

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  15.  
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    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 9:47am

    ENCRYPTION, ENCRYPTION, ENCRYPTION... ;)

     

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  16.  
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    Andy (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re:

    I came to read the comments just to see how many of my deluded and naively trusting countrymen would chime up with just this moronic classic.

    This is the same distorted thinking I have been hearing for years and which has led to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras, the police holding the DNA of innocent people, demands for ever more intrusive surveillance under the false pretense of being in the pursuit of terrorists and criminals.

    I despair at the utter complacency displayed in Britain today by those who would allow government and law enforcement to do precisely whatever it pleases in the foolish belief that these organizations only have citizens' best interests at heart. This is the country that tolerates the holding of public office by such characters as Peter Mandelson.

     

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  17.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    Re:

    wow. you are
    A) a shill
    B) an idiot
    C) someone with absolutely no idea of what the concept of privacy is
    D) all of the above.

    ima go with D


    me posting my thoughts here calling you moronic short sighted and just plain uninformed would be like shouting across a crowded room. i know people are able to see what i post well ahead of time just like if i shout in a room i would be dumb to think that no one would hear me.

    no, this is more akin to having a private conversation in my apartment about stuff that is none of your business and you are sitting there with surveillance mics snooping on everything i say until you find something you know my landlord doesnt like then reporting that information to him so he will kick me out.

    i am not the one that needs to get used to anything... you are the one that needs to get used to the fact that my data is MINE... not anyone elses and yes... its just as private as my mail unless i choose to make it not private

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    i feel sorry for england, another step to 1984

     

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  19.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 1:45pm

    Re:

    If you have nothing to hide, you have everything to fear.

     

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  20.  
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    Richard (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    Re:


    Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it's a non-issue.


    Reminds me of something....

    "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me."
    Pastor Martin Niemöller

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 3:00pm

    Deep packet information wants to be free.

     

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  22.  
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    Richard (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 3:08pm

    Re: encryptionj

     

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  23.  
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    Richard (profile), Dec 1st, 2009 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Re: encryption

    Whoops - finger trouble.
    What I meant to say was..

    The level of encryption required to defeat this technology is trivial.

    Since it has to compare against a vast database of copyrighted works it cannot really afford to do anything fancy to the input data.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Fin, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 4:08pm

    Sure, encryption. But it's a slippery slope. All they need to do is order their puppets in gov to give them a law that forbids VPN services. Make it a terrorist tool or something. It sounds unthinkable, I know. Just like the camera watching you on the street, your DNA in a database, your ID card and your 10 minutes of hate.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    Re:

    Currently, deep-packet inspection is illegal in the UK under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 (amendment 2006). Not even the police can sue it with a court order.

    I fail to see how a non-enforcement agency can possibly be on the side of legality on this.


    UK Says Phorm Clickstream Tracking Is Okay...

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2009 @ 4:29pm

    Re:

    Interestingly, the only people who really need to be concerned are those who are transmitting or receiving illegal content. Otherwise, it's a non-issue.

    Heh, posting anonymously against privacy. How hypocritical can one get?

    If someone in the "nothing to hide" crowd wants to be staken seriously, I think they should post with their real name and home address. Then they should unlock their home and leave a sign in the front window inviting everyone to come on in and take a look around at any time. After all, they have nothing to hide, right?

    But they're not going to do that. You know why? Because it's other people's privacy that they think has no value, not their own.

     

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  27.  
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    The eejit (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 11:37am

    Oh look!

    We have someone using privacy to defend against the LOSS of privacy. What would you say if you became the victim of DPI-based infringment suits? I'd bet most of my money that you'd be pretty pissed off.

    Maybe we're catching up to you Yanks on crazy laws over here in Blighty. Also, our Business Secretary needs some sense beaten into/money beaten out of him until he understands that this will make him MORE likely to be caught out when doing unethical things.

    Or maybe he's just Mickey Mouse in disguise. :)

     

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  28.  
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    bugmenot (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    http://torrentfreak.com/record-labels-face-60-billion-damages-for-pirating-artists-091207/
    Dec
    07
    Record Labels Face $6 Billion Damages for Pirating ArtistsWhile the major record labels were dragging file-sharers and BitTorrent sites to court for copyright infringement, they were themselves being sued by a conglomerate of artists for exactly the same offenses. Warner, Sony BMG, EMI and Universal face up to $6 billion in damages for pirating a massive 300,000 tracks.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    "Nicholas Bohm | December 8th, 2009 at 15:31 UTC
    Does using CView involve interception under RIPA?

    Yes. The question of whether a human needs to see something before it counts as interception is answered in my paper on Phorm at http://www.fipr.org/080423phormlegal.pdf in paragraphs 14 to 17. No human access is necessary - machine examination of content is still interception, and unlawful unless justified.

    It remains to be seen whether a convincing case can be made for an ISP’s need to know how much of its traffic infringes copyright - is this really required for purposes connected with the provision or operation of its service?
    "

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Daniel McDicken, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

    NoDPI

    Detica's Claim

    The Detica CView™ tool meets stringent consumer security design principles to protect privacy and is powered by a fully automated, closed system which does not identify individuals or store their data.

    Which stringent security design would that be?

    Where can we the consumer download and examine the source code?

    If this technology does not identify individuals or store their Data, then how does it identify potential file sharing? I am given to understand that this may be any encrypted SOCKS stream. So people like myself using Tor for the enhancement of their on-line privacy are getting screwed and labeled as illegal file sharers then by an automated system that they freely admit they have no control over.

     

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


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