AT&T is set to spy on us

Here are excerpts from Ars Technica (my emphasis added):

AT&T has announced that it will develop and deploy technology that will attempt to keep pirated content off its network.

Monitoring all the files sent through BitTorrent — which splits them into tiny pieces — could be even more difficult; doing it in real-time sounds both expensive and impossible.

“The only successful, robust way to address problems that involve personal responsibility and behavior is with social rather than technological tools,” [Dr. Greg Jackson, CIO of the University of Chicago], said in a hearing. “If we instead try and restrict behavior technologically… the only result will be an arms race that nobody wins.”

There’s a certain creepiness to having one of the country’s largest IP networks doing deep packet inspection and monitoring, but consumers who value their privacy can always go somewhere else, right? Not necessarily. In addition to running a massive network of its own, AT&T runs a good chunk of the backbone infrastructure in the US. It’s a rare bit of traffic that can make it to its destination without passing on to an AT&T-owned network. If the company deploys its anti-piracy technology to all data passing through its networks, AT&T’s “solution” could affect most US Internet users. In addition, many US residents have limited broadband choices.

We suspect that AT&T will start small, deploying some sort of P2P solution that looks for the transfer of unencrypted Hollywood blockbusters and major-label bands in complete form.

Only those using BitTorrent, FTP, or other targeted protocols would receive deeper scrutiny; e-mail and web requests should remain private in such a system.

If they hinder one type of file transfer technology, wouldn’t another one crop up? Are we screwed? I hope not.

Do you want to help fight against this? Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where they’ve been fighting this for awhile.

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Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. He's also a cat whisperer. Sometimes…a photographer, and card magician.

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