Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Trouble With 'Deep Packet Inspection'

Bob Sullivan writes on the MSNBC "Red Tape Chronicles" Blog:

Deep down, most Net users realize that everything they do online can be watched and tracked. Most, however, forget this on a day-to-day basis. That's why a new technology called deep packet inspection is potentially very disturbing.

The data is already dismal when it comes to people peeking at your Internet travels. Twenty percent of U.S. companies hire employees specifically to snoop at employee e-mail and 41 percent perform some kind of e-mail monitoring, according to a survey published earlier this year by Proofpoint. Two-thirds of companies monitor Web surfing, and 12 percent even monitor outside blog activity. Even if your company doesn't watch you as a matter of policy, employees might be sneaking a peek anyway. In a survey published in June by security firm Cyber-Ark, one-third of IT workers confessed to abusing their administrative passwords to read colleagues’ e-mail and compare salaries, and the like.

Still, people at work often realize their time is not their own, and their expectation of privacy -- at least according to under U.S. law -- is low. But now, a technology called deep packet inspection offers similar kind of monitoring capabilities that can be used on all Internet users -- at home, at work, even when using mobile devices.

Until recently, the concept of peeking at every data packet while it flew into and out of an Internet service provider’s networks quickly ran into practical problems. There was just too much data to inspect; doing so would bog down even the most robust network. But recent technology advances have made deep packet inspection both practical and affordable, and the technology began finding its way into ISPs around the world this year.

More here.


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