Virgin Media is set to delve into users' traffic looking for copyright infringement, in the online equivalent of opening your post -- and not telling you. It's the first ISP to try deep packet inspection with the controversial Detica CView technology, which will ascertain levels of illegal music file sharing across the Virgin network.
The trial will see Virgin monitoring 40 per cent of its customers, but none of these customers will be informed whether they are being checked out. Virgin insist that any data accumulated will be anonymous.
The technology used is called CView, created by a company called Detica and based on the same technology that powered the controversial Phorm. CView looks at Web traffic, spots peer-to-peer packets, and takes a look inside. It then collects data if the files being shared are considered to be infringing copyright, based on information from record companies. It's the equivalent of the Royal Mail opening every parcel to see if there's a CD inside, and making a note if there isn't a receipt in there too.
The data is anonymised and totalled up, as the goal is an overall picture of the extent of the problem. Virgin reckons no human will be able to access information on individual users. Individual users will not be penalised during this trial if material is found that CView thinks infringes copyright.
This is the sort of information ISPs could be required to collect in order to satisfy the Digital Economy Bill. Ofcom is reportedly considering CView to measure the 70 per cent reduction in piracy that will count infringement notification as a success. If this nebulous target isn't met, the government will open the way for rights holders to take users to court and have them disconnected.
Are you a Virgin Media user -- or have you been thinking of signing up? Will this news change your decision? The Digital Economy Bill makes this kind of thing seem a sad inevitability, but that doesn't mean we have to be happy about it. Or if we're not doing anything wrong then you've got nothing to worry about, right? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.