The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

ITU summit gathers steam after standardising web surveillance

So IPC’s eyes have been fixed on ITU internet governance summit for the last couple of weeks; we had a pretty interesting discussion on-list about whether or not to promote and participate in the lobbying efforts of a most strange bedfellow – Google, of all things – and in the end I think we came down on the side of “enemy of my enemy”. Regardless of your feelings, you should absolutely be writing to MPs, the ITU, and everybody else who doesn’t want to hear that this summit, and clandestine governance forums like it, are bad news for library patrons and everybody else.

Why, you ask? What kind of thing does the ITU actually get up to? Well, I’d like to draw your attention to a little-publicised incident where ITU’s plans for standardising Deep Packet Inspection were sort-of leaked to the sort-of press. It’s quite funny, since it’s only a leak in the most generous sense of the term – the morons sent a classified document to a net freedom activist and only later realised that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea.

Back to the matter at hand. The leaked document itself is pretty stark and disturbing; the ITU are under no illusions about what this technology is likely to be used for (monitoring and controlling the behaviour of users, China- and Iran-style). DPI is one of those technologies where the potential for abuse so hugely outweighs any conceivable legitimate use that most every other governance body has refused even to discuss it (and even then, our conceptions of “legitimate” are fairly gross; allowing ISPs to seamlessly, undetectably spy on traffic to take the guesswork out of Big Content’s Satanic intentions regarding copyright and enforcement).

It’s probably not surprising that we think of these attitudes as profoundly unethical and intrinsically hostile to users, their rights, and really just to the dissemination of human culture and ideas generally. Thanks as always to Cory Doctorow for sharing.

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