Bittorrent, Bytes, and Bandwidth


It seems a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), are limiting bandwidth based on what kind of traffic the packets contain. Since Peer-To-Peer (P2P) services pass a lot of data, they are "shaping internet traffic" by limiting how much data you can send or recieve if they sense you're using P2P programs. A recent exchange posted in the internet recently caught my attention because it took a vector saying it's okay to limit bandwidth of P2P because P2P is just used by bad people, anyhow. But then, of course, the P2P guys will just encrypt their data so it's not recognizable. Hmmm...

Adam Livingston, of the BBC, explains what the BBC really meant in a recent radio spot equating P2P technology with all sorts of theft and nefarious activities:
"If the ISPs can't now detect [encrypted] torrent data, then how will the security services manage it? And if they do figure it out, won't [P2P authors] just up the ante again? And is this secret war between Hollywood and the ISPs on the one side and the P2P community on the other one that can ever end in a truce, or will the stakes just keep raising and raising to the detriment of us all?

Why the presumption of "detriment to us all". You've demonstrated a mechanism — a sequence of events that exhibits some phenomena. But you definitely didn't establish any of it is to our collective detriment. Are you suggesting that developers should intentionally not encrypt things so that web traffic can be shaped by ISPs, and monitored by good guys chasing bad guys?

Politely put, it seems as though this whole issue of encryption was dreamed up as a surrogate for what the original article was suppose to have been about. The original piece really missed the mark when the main point was that P2P users are bad.

On Slashdot, TekNoGos? wrote:

Basicly, I differentiate three types of surveillance actions by cops :
  • hassling (I have to stop doing what I wanted, i.e. stopping a car, searching a house)
    • In the US, this isnt allowed without reasonable suspicion
  • surveillance (observing the "public" areas, where nobody expects privacy, i.e. patrolling, camera surveillance)
    • Allowed
  • spying (observing the "private" areas, where people expect privacy, i.e. phone tapping)
    • Not allowed without a warrant

"Now, where does cyberspace belong to? Electonic surveillance is certainly not hassling, but is it spying or just looking? Cypherpunks certainly claim that it is a private area and that nobody should even so much as look what they are doing. Cops claim that it is public, and that using monitoring tools is equivalent to street patrolling: taking a quick look in order to detect crime."

Overall, an insightful analysis. If I carry the analogy further, I could even admit that internet traffic is public, matching the analogy for legitimate police surveillance. It does travels through paths that are controlled and owned by others. Any techno-geek knows that email ~could~ be read by anybody in between source and destination.

So.. what's the big deal about encrypting? I can go to a public park and sit on the bench with a bag over my head. Let the police look, and they don't know who I am. I can whisper to my bench-mate. They can get a super duper parabolic evesdropping device. I can whisper more quietly or turn my head away or shield the conversation with background noise generating devices. Encryption is nothing more than the tit-for-tat that has always gone on between bad-guy and good-guy.

But only recently, am I hearing advocation to take a techology from everybody so that the bad guys can't use it. I don't like that.

Created by brian. Last Modification: Tuesday 24 of May, 2011 12:49:45 EDT by admin.