ACLU Asks FCC to Scrutinize ISP Surveillance of Customers’ Internet Habits

July 21, 2008 12:00 am

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Deep Packet Inspections (DPI) violate online privacy and Net NeutralityWashington, DC – Today as part of the FCC field hearing at Carnegie Mellon University on broadband and the digital future, the American Civil Liberties Union will submit written comments about how Deep Packet Inspections (DPI) and other practices threaten Americans’ online privacy and a neutral Internet.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“The Internet has become one of the most important methods of communication in history because of neutrality rules. The Commission must use the information from today’s hearing on broadband and the digital future to take steps to ensure that speech and association on the Internet remain free.

“Corporate gatekeepers, like Comcast, jeopardize the very existence of the Internet as a forum for speech. The Commission has the challenging, but far from impossible job of immediately restoring neutrality to the Net while avoiding censorship. Thus, the Commission should not resort to unconstitutional license conditions such as mandatory and automatic filtering — the Internet should remain a zone free of any gatekeepers or censors.

“The ACLU also urges the Commission to scrutinize the growing practice of Internet Service Providers examining their customers’ Internet habits. Using Deep Packet Inspections (DPI), ISPs know everything we do online. DPI allows ISPs to have access to all of your searches, friends and family, anything you read and email, any sites you visit and any comments you post. DPI is a virtual strip search for you and your computer.

“DPI already has a short sordid history associated with abusing personal information. Companies like NebuAd and Phorm built business models using their ability to eavesdrop on Internet users’ Web surfing for the purpose of serving ads. Under the guise of applying differential pricing based on the speed, volume, application preferences, or even the substance of content, service providers could snoop on every facet of user activity.

“This ISP practice not only threatens our online privacy, but also the neutrality of the Internet. ISPs can now use a free speech forum to discriminate based on the content of the communications. This kind of scrutiny is ripe for abuse, especially where there is money to be made. We would never give the post office the power to route mail according to the content of a letter. The Commission must ask some very hard questions about the reasons for this scrutiny.”

ACLU activists from the area plan to attend the hearing.

For information about the ACLU written testimony, go to: /freespeech/internet/36056leg20080721.html

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