US ISPs To Start Monitoring Users By July 12

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 15, 2012
Updated • Apr 9, 2012

Say you are an Internet Provider and have a customer base that has selected you for one reason or the other. What would convince you to start policing your users on behalf of another company or organization? According to CNET, U.S. American ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon or Cablevision have agreed to "policies designed to discourage customers from illegally downloading music, movies and software".

I cannot think of many reasons. Some ISPs might be part of a larger media company, or have stakes in media companies. Others may see this as a great way to drop the average bandwidth usage of their customer base to save costs. But beyond that?

ISPs have to create their own infrastructure to automate the system, which will not only be used to monitor the majority of U.S. Internet users, but also to keep track of infringements and the penalizing of users.

If you now thought, wow automated, that spills trouble, you may be right. Even worse than the automatic flagging and notification of users, is the fact that ISPs have a wide array of what the RIAA calls mitigation measures at their disposal. No, public flogging is not part of that catalog, but reducing the bandwidth of the customer or even terminating services permanently is (which according to Cnet none have agreed on).

I always thought that separation of power existed for a reason. With this new system, ISPs gain executive and judicative powers over their customers. And while those are restricted to the Internet connection, it still is a recipe for disaster.

I see several issues here. First automatic monitoring and detection will surely lead to false positives, which in turn could be very problematic for affected customers. While we do not know how the implemented measurements work, we could see solutions that are less from perfect. Hashes might work, but using a different compression engine or changing the files included in the distribution would be enough to circumvent those filters.

Name based filters have their same set of issues. Would the system detect that THG.rar is a copy of the movie The Hunger Game? What if someone names the copy TheHG.rar instead? The icing on the cake is that encryption will render the monitoring useless.

Another unanswered question is if customers have a say in the process, if they can lawyer up or even sue ISPs for monitoring their traffic or alleging them of copyright infringement when they have not done such a thing. I hope many do sue their ISPs if it should ever come to this.

Back to the original question: Why do you think have the ISPs agreed to monitor and penalize their customers?


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  1. Jaoth said on July 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    It’s somewhat like 1984 of the internet. D: I really hope that ISPs don’t all get on board on this. I know bigger companies like Time Warner might. But this is a major violation pf privacy, that much is clear. I should be able to sue any ISP for violating my right to privacy… not like the government cares that much for these “rights” anymore. Even if I’m not doing anything illegal, I still don’t like having people go through my stuff…

  2. Itsreal said on July 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I just feel like opening this door will lead to censoring everything we do on the internet. As paying customers (some of paying 40+ a month for internet) we should have the right to internet privacy period. Are there any ISP’s not involved in these actions? If so, please share.

  3. Ally said on March 20, 2012 at 4:55 am

    i think it’s a marketing method. i don’t think they want to trace anyone. i think this is put into place to see what the American people are into. pretty much, how can the American economy be boosted. why not look at what we browse at on the internet. it’s stupid and a total invasion to privacy but Uncle Sam has to think of ways to boost the economy some kind of way. this would be the perfect opportunity to figure out what people are into. but things like credit card numbers and such, they don’t need to know shit like that. so while it’s a brilliant idea to boost the economy, it’s a total fucking violation as an American. make those damn marketers go out in the public and see what people are into. pay attention to statistics that come out. listen to us complain. if we don’t like something, we’ll let you know. there are other ways to boost the economy than spying on the citizens…

  4. SCBright said on March 17, 2012 at 12:32 am

    I don’t live in US, lucky me?
    Answering to berttie: “The Land of Free” is slowly becoming the “Land of the Controlled.”

    1. John S said on July 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      totally agree…sad state of affairs playing out in the US

  5. berttie said on March 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Whatever has happened to the “Land of the Free”? Sigh.

  6. Jim said on March 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    If they throttle a customer’s service, isn’t the customer legally justified in “throttling” their payments? Let’s say they cut your bandwidth by 50%. Wouldn’t you be legally justified in paying half? I would think they would have a hard time justifying the full price. It would be like being charged the full price for a pie when you only received half of it. In fact, they might even be violating laws in some states if they try to bill you for something they did not provide. I need to get my lawyer daughter to do some research. The ISPs might have jumped into some deep water here.

    1. Midnight said on March 16, 2012 at 10:57 pm

      The ISP is also legally justified to cut off your Internet access for non-payment, so they still win in the end! LOL!!

      They’ve got you no matter which way you turn!!

  7. Wayfarer said on March 16, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    What else should we expect from the Fourth Reich? There seems a poetic justice to the US treating their own citizens with the same disregard they’ve been treating the rest of the world for decades.

  8. *.* said on March 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    F*ck MAFFIA and RIAA and ISP! We have Wifi :-)

  9. fred said on March 16, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Hope and change,, thank you obama..thank you:(

    1. SubgeniusD said on March 16, 2012 at 8:23 am

      You actually believe it matters which political party pushes their “golden boy (or girl)” into office?

      He’ll just be the Muppet-in-Chief working primarily for the Trans-National Corporatocracy. Likewise in UK, Western Europe, Japan etc to varying degrees.

      Monitoring this volume of web traffic represents a tremendous burden on ISPs. I doubt most of them will cooperate willingly.

      From what I read the EU proposals for this sort of police state surveillance are even worse then here in the so-called “Land of Liberty”

  10. Morely the IT Guy said on March 16, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Since these ISPs are claiming the authority to police their users, it is immediately obvious that any spam originating on their networks is their legal responsibility; thus, each individual spam email received by users of other networks should result in statutory damages of $1500. And since spammers routinely send upwards of a million spams per PC they control per day, that means that Comcast (for example) will be liable for $1.5 billion in statutory damages (minimum) per day if they fail to prevent delivery of those spam emails, under the US CAN-SPAM Act.

    I wonder if the ISPs have considered that.

  11. Mike said on March 16, 2012 at 4:17 am

    It’s actually very simple. Most of the ISPs that have agreed to this are content owners themselves or subsidiaries of MPAA or RIAA companies. Comcast owns NBC Universal now. Time Warner is Warner Bros. So on and so forth.

    A few years ago, ISPs wouldn’t have gone for this since it would’ve been shooting themselves in the foot. For the most part, the only people that really needed high speed were the people using P2P and maybe online gamers. You didn’t need broadband to look at web pages or send mail. But now with legal streaming, etc, there are enough “legit” things that require high speed that the ISPs don’t have to worry about any loss of broadband business. Couple that with companies that have local monopolies on broadband (like Comcast does in my town) and you’ve got people who have no alternative but to just roll over and accept whatever ridiculous terms and conditions the ISPs set forth.

  12. Anonymous said on March 16, 2012 at 3:25 am

    Have not they done it few years ago? I remember receiving warning letter. It just make me more carefull what I am downloading via bittorent.

    1. Gonzo said on March 16, 2012 at 4:34 am

      Prior to DMCA there was some question as to whether ISP and web services like Youtube were liable for the customers/users actions. During this time is was common for ISP’s to send letters as a “good faith” gesture. Then came the “pay up or we’ll sue” campaign.

      Now offenders will face “pay up or we’ll sue” + plus the empty threat err “educational” campaign.

  13. Gonzo said on March 16, 2012 at 3:01 am

    I read about this at TorrentFreak. Apparently the MAFFIA will monitor BT traffic (via trackers) then send the offending IP address to the correct ISP. From there the ISP sends the customer a letter and begins logging the amount of notices. When the notices reach an unacceptable level the ISP will throttle/redirect customers to “educational” anti piracy sites. Not one ISP has agreed to disconnect a repeat offender.

    The kicker is, this will all be paid for by raising ISP rates.

  14. JohnMWhite said on March 16, 2012 at 1:57 am

    I suspect that the ISPs have agreed because they have been offered indemnity or pure immunity. The telecoms industry already got away with colluding with the government to tap people’s phones without warrants. They know they won’t ever face serious legal problems for doing this, because while their media masters want to control distribution and squeeze more money out of consumers, the government at the same time wants the measures for security purposes. It suits absolutely everybody except the customer, and what are they going to do? Sign up with a competitor? HA!

  15. WebHybrid said on March 16, 2012 at 1:36 am

    This is news?

    I already knew of a case – one degree of separation – in which Comcast sent a threatening email to a friend of mine whose roommate had downloaded (exactly one time) a current feature film. The threat was to disconnect the user from the service.

    Since it would mean complete loss of a paying customer to that ISP, it would seem to be motivated by enforcement of copyright laws.

    As for me, not a Comcast user and not involved in the incident at all, hearing about it did cause me to uninstall BitTorrent from my laptop the same day. Oh I tried to be ‘hip,’ but the whole idea of Napster and its subsequent cousins seemed like a bad one, and the incident hammered that nail home.

  16. Virtualguy said on March 16, 2012 at 12:53 am

    For once, the people… the citizens of the U.S… had power. The internet empowers the people. The government can’t stand this and will find ways to weaken the people by limiting what they can do and say on the internet. The government will threaten ISPs with regulation, forcing the ISPs to abusorb the burden of monitoring their users. This is the first step. Slowly, one step at a time, the people will loser their power, beginning with anonymity.

  17. Dave said on March 16, 2012 at 12:41 am

    What right have the ISP’s to spy on what their customers are doing? This is not a legal requirement (yet!), so why have they caved in to those parasites in the entertainment industry? Just what threats and pressure have they put on ISP’s for them to do this? I just hope that this scheme (that will doubtless cause a rise in prices) does not come my way here in the UK. I shall be changing my ISP the moment I hear so much as a whisper that this might be happening, as I presume that there are some that won’t be quite so compliant and will actually stand up for their customers.

  18. Howard Pearce said on March 16, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I think all business/people are entitled to tailor their services and make contractual agreements with their customers that both agree to.

    Either one is free to seek associations elsewhere if they are displeased.

    This is the basis for a system based upon freedom of association.

  19. Midnight said on March 16, 2012 at 12:18 am

    You’d think that the ISPs value their “paying” customers and don’t want to lose them over some stupid monitoring law that makes no sense whatsoever!!

    No more privacy and a total invasion of whatever little privacy the public has!

  20. Damirora said on March 16, 2012 at 12:07 am

    ISPs just want to have more control as well, so that they can limit the bandwidth of power users whenever they want, and try to force you to pay fees.
    These RIAA and other archaic “criminals” need to learn to move on, they cannot be benefiting of other people’s creations.
    Everything about the U.S is all about how to control other people and steal from others.

    1. Annoyed said on March 16, 2012 at 12:19 am

      Have these ISP’s totally lost the capitalist plot? Why are they not prepared to kill (or worse) for the people who actually pay for their services [I thought that is what ISP stood for!]

      Why are they pandering to these parasites at all?

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