Black box inspection not the cornerstone of data monitoring service
On Tuesday there was a meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee looking at the draft Communications Data Bill. Some interesting information has come out of this meeting, including the suggestion that while there will be ways around what is currently planned, by 2018 the gap between what can be intercepted and not may be narrowed with another law.
With the news of project having an estimated cost of £1.8bn, there was very much an assumption that all traffic would end up going via black boxes, and as some have pointed out the amount of data processing required to do this in real time would be large and expensive. It seems according to the meeting, that the hope is that services such as Facebook and Google would co-operate in handing to supply the right data anyway. Leaving the black box devices to only cope with those services who do not agree to hand over data.
ISPreview picked up on an interesting area, and that is what exactly is meant by a web address. The meeting appears to have confirmed that the full URL will not be recorded. Though as ever there is little technical detail, which is also a common problem when discussing areas such as the BDUK projects, i.e. the precise details are glossed over to ensure everyone understands the area, with the end result that exact technical details are never fully detailed. The issue of what part of a URL is retained is important, as even if parameters are discarded, the URL may still contain other information that may not fall into the remit of the data monitoring.
In the area of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) while there are large providers with it in place already for network management. The process of ripping apart encrypted traffic and storing some parts of it subsequently, is very different to pattern matching packet headers to help in prioritising traffic as part of a traffic management scheme.
One possible future we can see happening, is that some overseas services that are yet to appear, may ban UK users from the service, to avoid the onerous requests from UK law enforcement. Also even if a service is available in the UK, since service A co-operates it may receive better performance for UK users, rather than service B that has to have its traffic passing through the bottlenecks that may be the black boxes. This potentially means goodbye any illusion of net neutrality in the UK.