Deep packet inspection – illegal or not?

Virgin Media’s plan to monitor traffic on its networks to assess the percentage and nature of illegal file-sharing may be soon hitting a roadblock, since Privacy International, a human rights group, solicited the European Commission to evaluate the software with which this is to be done.

They claim CView – the software in question – is still illegal in the UK. “Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) intercepting communications is a criminal offence regardless of what you do with the data,” says Alexander Hanff of Privacy International.

Virgin hit back with the claim that the deep packet inspection software won’t be a threat to users’ privacy, since the software can’t reveal users’ identities. Their aim is to pinpoint how much traffic going through their network is actually illegal. “This will tell us things such as the name of the top ten tracks being shared as well as the percentage of legal versus illegal,” says Asam Ahmad, Virgin Media’s spokesman.

He also says that they will not notify their customers about the fact, but revealed that the traffic monitored will be that on three P2P networks: BitTorrent, Gnutella and eDonkey.

According to BBC News, Alexander Hanff says that the organization will file a criminal lawsuit if the company starts using CView.

On the other hand, Andrew Ferguson, editor of ThinkBroadband, reveals that British Telecom has been using deep-packet inspection for years. If the law can be circumvented like this, is there any chance for Privacy International winning this case?

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