Bell Ordered To Tell Customers About How They Use Deep Packet Inspection

I guess making Facebook roll over and cry uncle isn’t enough for the Privacy Commissioner Of Canada. The target de jour is Bell Canada and their use of deep packet inspection technology:

In a report dated Aug. 13 and made public on Friday, assistant privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham told the company it must change its service agreements and the Frequently Asked Questions section of its website to notify customers that it collects and retains their personal information through use of its deep-packet inspection technology.

The commissioner found that Bell’s DPI, which among other things is used to identify peer-to-peer file-sharing so that it can be slowed down, tracks a person’s IP address — a numeric code that identifies a specific computer on a network. Users’ IP addresses typically change each time they log onto the internet, but as is common practice among service providers, Bell ties the codes to subscribers’ user identifications.

Denham considers this combination to be personal information that belongs to customers, which is protected under privacy laws.

“Given that Bell can link its Sympatico subscribers, by virtue of their subscriber ID, with internet activities (in this case, type of application being used) associated with their assigned IP addresses, in my view, IP addresses in this context are personal information,” she wrote.

The report said the privacy commissioner’s office will follow up with Bell within 30 days to see if the company has complied with its requests.

Bell for its part said that they will comply. That’s great for their customers. But what about wholesale customers such as those with Acanac or Teksavvy who are being screwed by Bell affected by this as well? Will they get any benefit from this?

Of course, Bell shouldn’t be using deep packet inspection in the first place. But that’s another argument for another day.

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