In my last post I alluded to the fact that Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technologies could be used by businesses to try and reduce the possibility of ‘inappropriate’ employee use of bandwidth and wrongful or accidental transmissions of confidential IP. In that last post I was talking about IT security, and this post will continue to reflect on DPI technologies’ applications and benefits to and for corporate environments.
A Quick Refresher on DPI
The “deep” in deep packet inspection refers to the fact that these boxes don’t simply look at the header information as packets pass through them. Rather, they move beyond the IP and TCP header information to look at the payload of the packet. The goal is to identify the applications being used on the network, but some of these devices can go much further; those from a company like Narus, for instance, can look inside all traffic from a specific IP address, pick out the HTTP traffic, then drill even further down to capture only traffic headed to and from Gmail, and can even reassemble e-mails as they are typed out by the user. (Source)
For a slightly longer discussion/description of DPI I suggest that you look at the wiki page that I’m gradually putting together on the topic of Deep Packet Inspection.
At work, I’m often referred to as the ‘neo-luddite‘ because I don’t advocate the rapid adoption of new technologies for their own sake, nor do I adhere to the position that technologies are inherently value neutral. In fact, I think that technologies are typically inscribed with a particular value-orientation; this orientation is not necessarily the one that is expressed at the technology’s creation. I think that there should be genuine thought and caution advanced when developing technologies that could be destructive to various facets of social life. With the introduction of new technologies comes the possibilities of reshaping cultural traditions, and sure a reshaping shouldn’t be done without at least some forethought. This shouldn’t be taken to mean that I see technology as adding to, or detracting from, a culture, but rather that accompanying a new technology’s adoption is a new cultural system with its own unique environmental characteristics. The world with cellphones isn’t the world as it was, plus cell phones, but instead is an entirely different techno-cultural world. We need to be mindful of the potency of new technologies to reshape facets of our lives through the transmutation or abolition of our traditions – doing otherwise is irresponsible to ourselves and the other members of our society.
I’ve written about Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technologies before, and their various potential privacy issues. Generally, I’ve talked about how the possibility of having your ISP persistently monitor your online actions could stifle the substantive abilities exercising of autonomy, liberty, and freedom of conscious. I won’t revisit those issues here, though I’d recommend checking out my earlier post on DPI. What follows examines how ISPs are injecting information into the webpages that you visit, which prevents you from viewing webpages as they were designed.
When you visit a webpage, your computer downloads a little bit of code and renders it on your screen – the web is an environment where visual stimulation necessitates copying data. Recently, researchers from the University of Washington and the International Computer Science Institute have discovered that about 1.3% of the time what is displayed on your computer’s screen has been altered. This having been said,