Thursday, January 10, 2008

AT&T Wants To Sniff Your Packets

One might ask why AT&T and other ISPs are suddenly so keen to become the censors of the interverse? That seems like a whole lotta power, not to mention a strange role for an ISP to be asking to take on.
Network-level filtering means your Internet service provider – Comcast, AT&T, EarthLink, or whoever you send that monthly check to – could soon start sniffing your digital packets, looking for material that infringes on someone’s copyright.

“What we are already doing to address piracy hasn’t been working. There’s no secret there,” said James Cicconi, senior vice president, external & legal affairs for AT&T.

Mr. Cicconi said that AT&T has been talking to technology companies, and members of the MPAA and RIAA, for the last six months about implementing digital fingerprinting techniques on the network level.

“We are very interested in a technology based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this,” he said. “We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies. But we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies, including NBC Universal, to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

Internet civil rights organizations oppose network-level filtering, arguing that it amounts to Big Brother monitoring of free speech, and that such filtering could block the use of material that may fall under fair-use legal provisions — uses like parody, which enrich our culture.

While pondering the strangeness of this, one might recall that AT&T has been BushCo's partner in crime for some time in illegally spying on Americans. I remember shaking my head at this story about the whistle blower (an IT guy), which should be a good lesson for our politicians... you can get away with lying to the low-tech people who don't know any better but you can't get away with lying to the techies.

"The president has not presented this truthfully," said Klein, a 62-year old retiree. "He said it was about a few people making calls to the Mideast. But I know this physical equipment. It copies everything. There's no selection of anything, at all -- the splitter copies entire data streams from the internet, phone conversations, e-mail, web-browsing. Everything."

What Klein unearthed -- you can read it here -- points to a nearly unbounded surveillance program. Its very location in San Francisco suggests that the program was "massively domestic" in its focus, he said. "If they really meant what they say about only wanting international stuff, you wouldn't want it in San Francisco or Atlanta. You'd want to be closer to the border where the lines come in from the ocean so you pick up international calls. You only do it in San Francisco if you want domestic stuff. The location of this stuff contradicts their story."

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