Iain Thomson notes that the stimulus bill that recently cleared the American Congress might work to legitimize ISP packet inspection practices under the guise of ‘network management’. Specifically, the amendment in question reads:
In establishing obligations under paragraph (8), the assistant secretary shall allow for reasonable network management practices such as deterring unlawful activity, including child pornography and copyright infringement.
While Thomson takes this to (potentially) mean that ISPs and major content producers/rights holders might use this language to justify the use of packet inspection technologies, it’s possible that alternate management methods could be envisioned. This said, given that copyright infringement is explicitly noted, there is a very real worry that this might legitimize this clause to push for ISP ‘policing’. Any such effect, I suspect, would further escalate the war between P2P and Media; encryption would become more common and effective, and result in a greater sophistication in avoiding inspection devices. This is a real loss for any and all groups who rely on non-encrypted traffic for intelligence purposes; any drive that will get ‘common folk’ thinking about encrypting more and more of their traffic, accompanied with relatively easy ways of doing so, will substantially hinder the capture of actual content. How you read the implications of this depends on your perspective on privacy and surveillance, but it seems to me that it threatens to further escalate a ‘war’ that criminalizes huge swathes of the population for actions that are relatively harmless.