We’re Watching You

Ars Technica says that 2008 could be the Year of Filtering.

DRM on music may be dying, but network filtering of copyrighted material is alive and well. In fact, over the next few months, two different filtering initiatives from Big Content could both come to fruition, bringing the magic of Big Brother to colleges and ISPs near you. It’s still a contested issue, but the situation has developed to the point where it is at least plausible to imagine ubiquitous network filtering in the US.

The first of the two initiatives is buried in an major college funding bill that has been passed out of a House committee and is now waiting for consideration by the full body.

Under the bill, schools would need to “develop a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity.”

There’s no requirement that schools implement such a plan, but it’s not hard to see how the requirement could become law in a future education bill (after all, content owners want more than a “plan,” they want action).

The second part of the plan threatens to provide big brother surveillance for everyone. At the recently completed Consumer Electronics Show officials from AT&T mused about the possibility of inspecting traffic on their networks to check for copyrighted material.

2008 might well be the Year of the Filter, but who knows? It might also be the Year of Filtergate. A single major fiasco could even revive the simmering debate over network neutrality regulation and legislation. Stay tuned; it should be quite a spectacle.

We can only hope the fiasco comes quickly.

Then we can begin a serious discussion about true network neutrality that respects fair use and privacy rights.

internet, filter, net neutrality, big brother