Tuesday, May 13th, 2008
By Peter Nowak, CBC News
Last Updated: Monday, May 12, 2008
University of Ottawa legal clinic urges investigation of internet traffic shaping
The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, a University of Ottawa legal clinic specializing in internet- and other technology-related law, has joined the assault on Bell Canada Inc. and its traffic-shaping practices, urging an investigation by the country’s privacy commissioner.
The group says Bell has failed to obtain the consent of its retail and wholesale internet customers in applying its deep-packet inspection technology, which tells the company what subscribers are using their connections for. Bell is using DPI to find and limit the use of peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent, which it says are congesting its network.
The CIPPIC, which is made up mainly of lawyers and law students from the University of Ottawa, says Bell has not only failed to show that its network is congested and that its actions are necessary, but it has also run afoul of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in doing so.
“Practices [such as] those involving the collection and use of personal information are not necessary to ensure network integrity and quality of service,” wrote CIPPIC director Philippa Lawson in a letter to the commissioner dated May 9.
“Moreover, subscribers whose traffic is being inspected have not consented to the inspection and use of their data for this purpose.”
Bell says it is using DPI only to read the “header” on the type of traffic, which determines what kind of usage it is. But CIPPIC contends that DPI must be used to “open the envelope” on the traffic for it to be of any use to an internet service provider, thus violating the user’s privacy.
“The evidence is clear that DPI technologies permit the collection and use of personal data about internet subscribers. The extent to which Bell is actually taking advantage of this capability is less clear,” wrote Lawson, who was previously a counsel with the consumer group Public Interest Advocacy Centre.