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Virgin Media UK Halt Broadband ISP Trial of CView DPI to Track Illegal File Sharing

Posted: 01st Oct, 2010 By: MarkJ
best virgin media uk broadbandCable giant Virgin Media UK has confirmed that its controversial trial of Detica's CView Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology, which is designed to monitor and measure the level of copyright infringement ("illegal" copyright P2P file sharing) among broadband customers on an internet provider's (ISP) network, has been put on hold.

In fairness, and to the best of our knowledge, a VM spokesman has often told us over the past year that, "to be clear, the CView device has not yet been deployed on Virgin Media’s network". According to today's news that situation remains unchanged, despite Virgin Media's original November 2009 announcement (here) suggesting an imminent deployment.

Virgin Media's Executive Director of Broadband, Jon James, said in Nov 2009:

"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.

Detica's CView™ technology potentially offers a non-intrusive solution which enhances our understanding of aggregate customer behaviour without identifying or storing individual customers' data."

A Virgin Media Spokesman told ZDNet UK yesterday:

"While we are still exploring practical ways we can understand the scale of copyright infringement, we are also conscious of consumer concerns and issues around privacy. ... There is no Detica or CView equipment in our network."

It's worth remembering that the use of CView DPI technology was not Virgin Media's idea and had originally been plugged by Ofcom (here). The regulator initially held talks with Detica about the possible use of its system to help in the fight against unlawful file sharing and VM agreed to help.

detica cview dpi technology

However several events occurred after these announcements that probably gave Virgin Media pause for thought. Privacy campaigners, fresh from defeating Phorm (a similar DPI tech) in the UK, raised their voices and, during January of this year, even got the European Commission (EC) to cast a suspicious eye over Virgin Media (here).

In addition Ofcom eventually said that it would not require ISPs to monitor the internet traffic of their customers, which probably came as a result of several softening amendments to the recently passed and still quite controversial Digital Economy Act 2010 (DEA).

It is worth remembering that many ISPs currently deploy broadband Traffic Management systems that are not a million miles from the CView solution and could, in theory, be repurposed for the task of monitoring such activity.

Yesterday the European Commission (EC) referred the UK to the EU's Court of Justice for failing to fully implement its internet and email privacy rules (here). The case was directly related to Phorm's DPI system and could also hinder plans to use similar technology for covertly monitoring internet activity.
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