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The Rise and Fall of Invasive ISP Surveillance by Paul Ohm of Colarado Law School

The Rise and Fall of Invasive ISP Surveillance by Paul Ohm of Colarado Law School

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ISPs carry their users' conversations, secrets, relationships, acts, and omissions. Until the very recent past, they had left most of these alone because they had lacked the tools to spy invasively, but with recent advances in eavesdropping technology, they can now spy on people in unprecedented ways. This Article proposes an innovative new theory of communications privacy to help policymakers strike the proper balance between user privacy and ISP need. In the words of Abe Singer on the NetNeutrality list, "The article provides an excellent comprehensive view of the debate on ISP monitoring, privacy, how it relates to net neutrality, and presents legal theory for striking a proper balance in public policy."
ISPs carry their users' conversations, secrets, relationships, acts, and omissions. Until the very recent past, they had left most of these alone because they had lacked the tools to spy invasively, but with recent advances in eavesdropping technology, they can now spy on people in unprecedented ways. This Article proposes an innovative new theory of communications privacy to help policymakers strike the proper balance between user privacy and ISP need. In the words of Abe Singer on the NetNeutrality list, "The article provides an excellent comprehensive view of the debate on ISP monitoring, privacy, how it relates to net neutrality, and presents legal theory for striking a proper balance in public policy."

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Published by: Sivasubramanian Muthusamy on Jul 29, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/13/2013

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1261344
 
L
EGAL
S
TUDIES
R
ESEARCH
P
APER
S
ERIES
 
Working Paper Number 08-22September 9, 2008
The Rise and Fall of Invasive ISP Surveillance
Paul Ohm
University of Colorado Law School
 
This paper can be downloaded without charge fromthe Social Science Research Network electronic libraryat:http://ssrn.com/abstract=
1261344
 
 
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1261344
V
ER
.
 
1.5::
 
1/26/2009
 ISP
 
S
URVEILLANCE 
1
T
HE
R
ISE AND
F
ALL OF
 I
NVASIVE
ISPS
URVEILLANCE
 P
AUL
O
HM
*
 
 forthcoming
2009 U
NIVERSITY OF
I
LLINOIS
L
AW
R
EVIEW
___.
A
BSTRACT
 
Nothing in society poses as grave a threat to privacy as the InternetService Provider (ISP). ISPs carry their users’ conversations, secrets,relationships, acts, and omissions. Until the very recent past, they had leftmost of these alone because they had lacked the tools to spy invasively, butwith recent advances in eavesdropping technology, they can now spy onpeople in unprecedented ways. Meanwhile, advertisers and copyrightowners have been tempting them to put their users’ secrets up for sale, and judging from a recent flurry of reports, ISPs are giving in to the temptationand experimenting with new forms of spying. This is only the leading edgeof a coming storm of unprecedented and invasive ISP surveillance.This Article refines earlier theories of communications privacy tohelp policymakers strike the proper balance between user privacy and ISPneed. We cannot simply ban aggressive monitoring, because ISPs havelegitimate reasons for scrutinizing communications on an Internet teemingwith threats. Applying this refined theory, policymakers will be able todistinguish between an ISP’s legitimate needs and mere desires.In addition, this Article injects privacy into the network neutralitydebate—a debate about who gets to control innovation on the Internet.Despite the thousands of pages that have already been written about thetopic, nobody has recognized that we already enjoy mandatory network neutrality in the form of expansive wiretapping laws. The recognition of thisidea will flip the status quo and reinvigorate a stagnant debate byintroducing privacy and personal autonomy into a discussion that has onlyever been about economics and innovation.
*
Associate Professor of Law and Telecommunications, University of Colorado Law School.Versions of this article were presented to the Privacy Law Scholars 2008 Conference;Computers, Freedom, and Privacy ’08 conference; and Telecommunications Policy ResearchConference 2008. Thanks to Brad Bernthal, Aaron Burstein, Bruce Boyden, John Chapin,Samir Chopra, Danielle Citron, KC Claffy, Will DeVries, Susan Friewald, Jon Garfunkel,Dale Hatfield, Stephen Henderson, Chris Hoofnagle, Orin Kerr, Derek Kiernan-Johnson,Scott Moss, Deirdre Mulligan, Frank Pasquale, Wendy Seltzer, Sherwin Siy, Dan Solove,Gerard Stegmaier, Peter Swire, Phil Weiser, Matt Yoder, and Tal Zarsky for their commentsand suggestions.
 
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1261344
V
ER
.
 
1.5::
 
1/26/2009
 ISP
 
S
URVEILLANCE 
2
ABSTRACT .............................................................................................................. 1
 
INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................... 3
 
I. PRIVACY ONLINE AND HOW IT IS LOST................................................... 7
 
A.
 
A
 
B
RIEF
H
ISTORY OF
I
NTERNET
S
URVEILLANCE
............................................... 8
 
1. Restrained: Heavily Filtered for Narrow Purposes ..................................... 8
 
2. Constrained: Technological Barriers to Invasive Monitoring ..................... 9
 
a) The Present-Day Impossibility of Complete Monitoring .................................... 10
 
b) The Race Between Processors and Bandwidth ................................................... 11
 
B.
 
C
HANGES
......................................................................................................... 14
 
1. Evaporating Technological Constraints ..................................................... 14
 
2. Extraordinary Pressures ............................................................................ 15
 
a) Pressure to Upgrade Infrastructure and Obtain ROI ........................................... 15
 
b) Google Envy and the Pressure to Monetize ........................................................ 16
 
c) All-you-can-eat Contracts and Network Congestion .......................................... 17
 
d) Outside Pressures ............................................................................................... 17
 
3. Signs of Change .......................................................................................... 18
 
a) AT&T’s Plans for Network Filtering .................................................................. 18
 
b) Phorm ................................................................................................................. 19
 
c) Charter Communications and NebuAd ............................................................... 20
 
d) Comcast Throttles Bittorrent .............................................................................. 21
 
4. Are These Acts Ethical?.............................................................................. 22
 
5. Forecast ...................................................................................................... 24
 
C.
 
M
EASURING AND
C
OMPARING THE
H
ARMS OF
C
OMPLETE
M
ONITORING
........ 25
 
1. Measuring What ISPs Can See ................................................................... 26 
 
a) Visual Privacy as a Metaphor for Online Privacy ............................................... 26
 
b) What ISPs Can See ............................................................................................. 26
 
c) What ISPs Cannot See: Encrypted Contents and Use of Another ISP ................ 26
 
2. Comparing ISPs to Other Entities .............................................................. 28
 
a) ISPs Compared to Google .................................................................................. 28
 
b) ISPs Compared to Google Plus DoubleClick ..................................................... 29
 
c) ISPs Compared to Spyware Distributors ............................................................ 30
 
d) ISPs Compared to Offline Entities ..................................................................... 31
 
3. Harms ......................................................................................................... 32
 
4. Conclusion: We Must Prohibit Complete Monitoring ................................ 35
 
II. WEIGHING PRIVACY ................................................................................... 35
 
A.
 
T
HEORIES OF
I
NFORMATION
P
RIVACY
............................................................. 35
 
B.
 
A
NALYZING
P
RIVACY IN
D
YNAMIC
S
ITUATIONS
............................................. 36
 
1. ISPs have a Track Record of Respecting Privacy....................................... 37 
 
2. Constraints—and Signs of Evaporation ..................................................... 38
 
3. Thought Experiment: What if Microsoft Started Monitoring? ................... 38
 
C.
 
R
EBALANCING THE
B
ALANCING
T
ESTS
........................................................... 39
 
1. Overdeference ............................................................................................ 39
 
2. The Privacy Side: Firm Statements of Vague Harm ................................... 40
 
3. The Other Side: Skepticism and Expert Analysis ....................................... 41
 
D.
 
S
UMMARIZING THE
A
PPROACH
....................................................................... 42
 
III. REGULATING NETWORK MONITORING ............................................. 42
 
A.
 
A
BANDONING THE
E
NVELOPE
A
NALOGY
........................................................ 42
 

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