AT&T announced its support to major content publishers and Hollywood studios by proposing to develop an anti-piracy solution to block copyright infringing content over its network. What the San Antonio-based ISP quotes as proactive position in protecting copyrights (LA Times) and a "network-based solution" (RedHerring) are bound to raise lot of questions on the privacy concerns of its customers.
First, the company has yet to spill out the details on the technology to be used with respect to feasibility of the surveillance and how it will guard user privacy (Associated Press). Second, while this announcement is bound to raise a lot of hue and cry among its customers, for a company that was built from phone lines and is increasingly making a shift to offering online media services, siding with content publishers and allaying their concerns does seem a logical business interest (even at the cost of annoying its customers). And lastly, AT&T is a massive network and backbone infrastructure provider in the US (Ars Technica). The bottome-line: Whatever AT&T implements, it will affect people big time.
And for those who believe that the task of monitoring content may be gargantuan, AT&T is definitely not new to user surveillance. (Thanks to Ryan Singel @ Wired)
Internet is a compelling and disrupting knowledge transmission medium. Content will proliferate unhindered. Encrypting data, a method used by most P2P software (torrents) is just one of the methods to circumvent detection. Still, policing opens up another Pandora's box. Viacom's suit against YouTube caused a lot of infringing videos to be brought down, but it affected many legitimate users too. What will be the scale of such errors in AT&T's policing process? Where do you ultimately place the barricade to allay privacy concerns and prevent copyright infringement? And to what extent does a service provider have actual control to "police" data that it does not own? Join the discussion.