Media reports confirm that a UN summit has approved the Chinese proposals to spy on BitTorrent file-sharers. Back in November, Dubai held a meeting where ITU agreed upon a secret Y.2770 proposal, which allowed access to the papers to members only. Another meeting began this week, where the American government and a few Internet companies harshly criticized the decision.
Despite the secrecy around the proposal, a Korean standards body revealed a document saying how network operators are planning to identify embedded digital watermarks in MP3 files and uploading BitTorrent users.
The opponents argue that UN’s agency barely acknowledges that DPI has privacy implications and the potential privacy threats associated with the technology might be mitigated. The matter is that deep packet inspection proves useful in addressing network attacks, detecting malware, or managing applications. However, it also draws attention on other issues like governmental surveillance. The arguments are that mandatory standards can’t be a good idea even if they are well thought through. If the organization forces the world’s tech firms to adopt standards developed in a body which can’t even conduct privacy analysis, it may face dire global consequences for online trust and users’ rights.
The secret proposal also asks Internet service providers to decrypt their subscribers’ online traffic. However, this method has been already used by a number of ITU member countries: for example, Amesys (a unit of the French firm Bull SA) helped Moammar Gadhafi spy on his people in 2011.
This is not the only example: this past summer, New York Times reported about FinSpy – a malware sold by a British firm. The software allowed the distant activation of computer cameras and microphones and was linked to repressive governments, including Turkmenistan, Brunei, and Bahrain.
Anyway, in spite of all warnings, the Y.2770 proposal seems to become just another censorship instrument for the governments to spy on its people and whatever else.