Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Tag: internet service providers

Review: Internet Architecture and Innovation

Internet_Architecture_and_Innovation_coverI want to very highly recommend Barbara van Schewick’s Internet Architecture and Innovation. Various authors, advocates, scholars, and businesses have spoken about the economic impacts of the Internet, but to date there hasn’t been a detailed economic accounting of what may happen if/when ISPs monitor and control the flow of data across their networks. van Schewick has filled this gap by examining “how changes in the Internet’s architecture (that is, its underlying technical structure) affect the economic environment for innovation” and evaluating “the impact of these changes from the perspective of public policy” (van Schewick 2010: 2).

Her book traces the economic consequences associated with changing the Internet’s structure from one enabling any innovator to design an application or share content online to a structure where ISPs must first authorize access to content and design key applications  in house (e.g. P2P, email, etc). Barbara draws heavily from Internet history literatures and economic theory to buttress her position that a closed or highly controlled Internet not only constitutes a massive change in the original architecture of the ‘net, but that this change would be damaging to society’s economic, cultural, and political interests. She argues that an increasingly controlled Internet is the future that many ISPs prefer, and supports this conclusion with economic theory and the historical actions of American telecommunications corporations.

van Schewick begins by outlining two notions of the end-to-end principle undergirding the ‘net, a narrow and broad conception, and argues (successfully, in my mind) that ISPs and their interrogators often rely on different end-to-end understandings in making their respective arguments to the public, regulators, and each other.

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Draft – Deep Packet Inspection: Privacy, Mash-ups, and Dignities

This is a draft of the paper that I’ll be presenting at the Counter: Piracy and Counterfeit conference in Manchester in a few days. It’s still rough around some edges, but feels like a substantial piece. Comments, as always, are welcome.

Abstract:

Privacy operates as an umbrella-like concept that shelters liberal citizens’ capacity to enjoy the autonomy, secrecy, and liberty, values that are key to citizens enjoying their psychic and civil dignity. As digitisation sweeps through the post-industrial information economy, these same citizens are increasingly sharing and disseminating copywritten files using peer-to-peer file sharing networks. In the face of economic challenges posed by these networks, some members of the recording industries have sought agreements with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to govern the sharing of copywritten data. In Britain, file-sharing governance has recently manifested in the form of Virgin Media inserting deep packet inspection (DPI) appliances into their network to monitor for levels of infringing files. In this presentation, I argue that ISPs and vendors must demonstrate technical and social transparency over their use of DPI to assuage worries that communications providers are endangering citizens’ psychic and civil dignities. Drawing on recent Canadian regulatory processes concerning Canadian applications of DPI, I suggest that transparency between civil advocacy groups and ISPs and vendors can garner trust required to limit harms to citizens’ psychic dignity. Further, I maintain that using DPI appliances to detect copyright infringement and apply three-strikes proposals unduly threatens citizens’ civil dignities; alternate governance strategies must be adopted to preserve citizens’ civil dignity.

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Byte-Based Billing and Smart Pipes

cyberspacemapThere are worries that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may inject intelligence into their networks to try and unfairly differentiate their services from competitors’. Time Warner’s recently reformed End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) may be the most recent demonstration of this kind of differentiation. The EULA recognizes a difference between third-party video streaming, and streaming content from Time Warner’s own network spaces, and authorizes Time Warner to:

…monitor my bandwidth usage patterns to facilitate the provision of the HSD Service and to ensure my compliance with the Terms of Use and to efficiently manage their networks and their provision of services. TWC or ISP may take such steps as each may determine appropriate in the event my usage of the HSD Service does not comply with the Terms of Use. I acknowledge that HSD Service does not include other services managed by TWC and delivered over TWC’s shared infrastructure, including Video Service and Digital Phone Service. (Source)

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Deep Packet Inspection and the Confluence of Privacy Regimes

insiderouterI learned today that I was successful in winning a Social Sciences and Human Research Council (SSHRC) award. (Edit September 2009: I’ve been upgraded to a Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship). Given how difficult I found it to find successful research statements (save for through personal contacts) I wanted to post my own statement for others to look at (as well as download if they so choose). Since writing the below statement, some of my thoughts on DPI have become more nuanced, and I’ll be interested in reflecting on how ethics might relate to surveillance/privacy practices. Comments and ideas are, of course, welcomed.

Interrogating Internet Service Provider Surveillance:
Deep Packet Inspection and the Confluence of International Privacy Regimes

Context and Research Question

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are ideally situated to survey data traffic because all traffic to and from the Internet must pass through their networks. Using sophisticated data traffic monitoring technologies, these companies investigate and capture the content of unencrypted digital communications (e.g. MSN messages and e-mail). Despite their role as the digital era’s gatekeepers, very little work has been done in the social sciences to examine the relationship between the surveillance technologies that ISPs use to survey data flows and the regional privacy regulations that adjudicate permissible degrees of ISP surveillance. With my seven years of employment in the field of Information Technology (the last several in network operations), and my strong background in conceptions of privacy and their empirical realization from my master’s degree in philosophy and current doctoral work in political science, I am unusually well-suited suited to investigate this relationship. I will bring this background to bear when answering the following interlinked questions in my dissertation: What are the modes and conditions of ISP surveillance in the privacy regimes of Canada, the US, and European Union (EU)? Do common policy structures across these privacy regimes engender common realizations of ISP surveillance techniques and practices, or do regional privacy regulations pertaining to DPI technologies preclude any such harmonization?

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