Virgin Media to trial filesharing monitoring system
CView not for you to see
Virgin Media will trial deep packet inspection technology to measure the level of illegal filesharing on its network, but plans not to tell the customers whose traffic will be examined.
The system, CView, will be provided by Detica, a BAE subsidiary that specialises in large volume data collection and processing, and whose traditional customers are the intelligence agencies and law enforcement.
The trial will cover about 40 per cent of Virgin Media's network, a spokesman said, but those involved will not be informed. "It would be counter-productive because it doesn't affect customers directly," he said.
CView will operate at the centre of Virgin Media's network on aggregate traffic, the spokesman emphasised, and seek only to determine the proportion of filesharing traffic that infringes copyright.
The system will look at traffic and identify the peer-to-peer packets. In a step beyond how ISPs currently monitor their networks, it will then peer inside those packets and try to determine what is licensed and what is unlicensed, based on data provided by the record industry.
Virgin Media emphasised that it is seeking to measure the overall level of illegal filesharing, not to keep records on individual customers. Data on the level of copyright infringement will be aggregated and anonymised.
Nevertheless, the trial - which has no scheduled end date - is likely to prove controversial. CView's deep packet inspection is the same technology that powered Phorm's advertising system, which allowed monitoring and targeting of individual internet users. It too was trialled - by BT - without customers' consent or knowledge.
Detica is also understood to be in talks with other major ISPs with a view to wider trials of CView.
To begin with at least, Virgin Media's implementation will focus on music sharing. The ISP is preparing a legal download service in partnership with Universal, the largest of the four major record labels, which it hopes will be the "carrot" to Lord Mandelson's "stick" of technical measures against those who persistently infringe copyright.
"Understanding how consumer behaviour is changing will be an important requirement of Virgin Media's upcoming music offering and, should they become law, the Government's legislative proposals will also require measurement of the level of copyright infringement on ISPs' networks," said Jon James, Virgin Media's executive director of broadband.
As part of Lord Mandelson's "stick", the Digital Economy Bill, which the government is hoping to pass before the election, requires Ofcom to measure the effect of its anti-illegal filesharing provisions.
As we reported last week, Detica has also tried to pitch CView as an accurate method for regulators to use. At the launch of the Bill on Friday, however, a senior civil servant suggested that a crude estimate based on the level of illegal filesharing observed by rights holder organisations could be used.
In the pitch document, Detica said that as well as aggregate data, CView could be used to categorise filesharers and apply technical measures against them, or target them to be sold legal alternatives. Virgin Media's spokesman said it has no plans to use such features.
The Register will meet Detica executives next week to discuss CView. Post your questions about the system in comments. ®
If it is illegal for Virgin Media to listen in on my phone calls, how is it legal for them to listen in on my internet connection? I may be passing confidential information, business details or research information across my connection. They may well be 'looking' for one thing, but who knows what they are logging and storing? Am I now meant to inform my clients that their communications may well be subject to DPI and that a third party may well read, store and pass on information that they collect from our communications?
Someone needs to clarify this properly, Virgin's 'it doesn't affect customers directly' is wrong, just because they own the network that I am using, doesn't mean that they own the information that I am passing along it.
As an aside, one good thing could come of this. It could prove to the music industry that their claims of 95% of all music being pirated are absolute rubbish.
RIPA interception and consent?
So when will VM be seeking the consent of all parties to the communication in order to intercept it and inspect its contents? Will RIPA apply? Are they in contact with the ICO regarding any infringement of DPA? Have they taken/sought legal advice/opinion? Have any government department been comforting them recently?
How does this stand under EU law both current and proposed?
Does Commissioner Reding's department know about this?
Here we go again!!!
Don't you realise that if you make crap like this to make a quick buck that you won't solve the "problem" of filesharing, you'll just speed up the development of tools that are totally encrypted? It's already pretty easy to use encryption but people aren't wholley aware of it yet, but if, after 3 months, a chunk of the country is attacked by law then people will simply look to learn the next step in secure filesharing? You won't stop illegal filesharing until a viable alternative is offered; a service with 100% coverage of music selling at a proper price will convert many more filesharers than putting them in jail.
I hope your system fails and you parasites come to an untidy end.