Throughout the Global North there are discussions on the table for introducing what are called ‘three-strikes’ rules that are designed to cut or, or hinder, people’s access to the Internet should they be caught infringing on copyright. In the EU, the big content cartel is trying to get ISPs to inspect consumer data flows and, when copywritten content is identified, ‘punish’ the individual in some fashion. Fortunately, it is looking that at least the EU Parliament is against imposing such rules on the basis that disconnecting individuals from the Internet would infringe on EU citizens’ basic rights. In an era where we are increasingly digitizing our records and basic communications infrastructure, it’s delightful to see a body in a major world power recognize the incredibly detrimental and over-reactionary behavior that the copyright cartel is calling for. Copyright infringement does not trump basic civil liberties.
Now, I expect that many readers would say something along this line: I don’t live in the EU, and the EU Parliament has incredibly limited powers. Who cares, this: (a) doesn’t affect me; (b) is unlikely to have a real impact on EU policy.
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.
For the past couple of months I’ve been thinking about a post Sean Yo made about Facebook. The post was entitled Facebook and the Man, and looked at how law enforcement uses Facebook to preemptively dissuade illegal activities. In light of these ‘positive’ uses Yo questions whether or not the city of Toronto was justified in banning the social networking service from their networks without considering the technology’s possible beneficial uses. While not asserting that Facebook is necessarily suited towards governmental activities, without critically reflecting on the technology the city has lost a potentially helpful communicative medium that would let officials connect with the public.
Generally, I think that the privacy risks and challenges in establishing appropriate communications policies with Facebook are reason enough to avoid using the service for governmental activities. That said, the question of governments using Facebook has been lurking in my brain for the past little while and I’ve recently come across some posts that help to clarify some of my thoughts surrounding Facebook.