W3C Vs DPI

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

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Key note speaker Tim Berners-Lee aired concerns over Deep Packet Inspection last week at the 21st World Wide Web Conference held in Lyon, France.

The conference is a yearly international event on the topic of the future direction of the World Wide Web. First created in 1989, the conference brings together people who are passionate about the Web and what it has to offer.

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, was one of the key note speakers. His speech focused on the privacy of the web, a timely topic with the Home Office’s renewed plans on this announced in February. These were the plans to order ISPs and phone networks to store user data and make it available to security services as it happens. The reason? To allow security services to spot potential risks sooner.

Berners-Lee considers this to be a privacy breach due to the use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). DPI analyses packets of data that travel across the internet, tracks internet users and reconstructs pages they visit meaning that everyone’s activity online could be monitored. It would be the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran. Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) would be able to monitor all communication on social media, e-mails and the sites we log in to. I had never heard of DPI until researching for this blog and it’s scared me to think that we could be open to this level of surveillance; the scale is really worrying.

Not only could our information be obtained by GCHQ on demand but it also means that as a Country we leave ourselves open to that information being abused. It is dangerous and should be dropped as a substantial amount of highly intimate information is vulnerable to theft or release. The panel at W3C also agreed that countries should sell Deep Packet Inspection technologies with caution; as carefully as they sell nuclear weapons.

The father of the World Wide Web advocated the implementation of an independent body to monitor the use of DPI. Each case would be checked to see why the situation was being looked into and if it was appropriately investigated. Final plans by the Home Office will be released at the end of April, so we can only wait to see if the legislature will pass and how it would be carried out. I and surely many others hope that the Home Office takes note of these legitimate concerns and rethink their strategy.