GCHQ supplier pans government file-sharing plans

Intelligence-tech supplier Detica has said government plans to force ISPs to identify unlawful file-sharers are 'not necessary or proportionate'
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

One of the companies that supply intelligence technology to the government has criticised UK plans to monitor file-sharers.

Detica told ZDNet UK on Thursday that government plans to force ISPs to identify unlawful file-sharers were not proportionate.

"If the government chose to go down that route, we would come out strongly against," said Detica media accounts director Dan Klein. "It's not necessary or proportionate."

Detica, a BAE subsidiary, provides technologies that are used by the intelligence services and law enforcement to gather intelligence. While targeted monitoring of potential terrorists was proportionate, said Klein, using similar technologies for civil infringements was unnecessary.

The Digital Economy Bill, part of which proposes that persistent unlawful file-sharers be cut off from the internet, has caused a storm of criticism from UK ISPs.

One of the main issues under contention is that monitoring file-sharing on UK networks would require some form of surveillance by ISPs — such as deep packet inspection — of traffic going over their networks. While non-anonymised monitoring of web users is technically feasible, said Klein, such measures would probably not be popular with UK citizens.

"Detica will not go down that route," said Klein. "It's not doable in the marketplace, because of the consumer."

Virgin Media announced on Thursday that it would trial technology designed to monitor the level of file-sharing on its network. The company is using a Detica product, CView, to monitor web traffic. Klein said CView, which is in its beta phase, does not enable Virgin Media or rights holders to identify individual file-sharers.

Klein told ZDNet UK that Detica had no plans to enable file-sharers to be identified through CView. "There's no way we would be interested in finding out about individual [file-sharers]," he said.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills responded to Klein's comments on Thursday. "The measures set out in the Digital Economy Bill seek to protect our creative and online economies from the real threat of unlawful online file-sharing," a spokesperson told ZDNet UK.

"If warning letters backed by legal action do not prove as effective as we expect, then an additional obligation to introduce appropriate technical measures is worth considering. If we move to this stage, Ofcom will advise what measures would be the most proportionate and effective for ISPs to apply," the spokesperson said.

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