Should AT&T Police the Internet? By Marguerite Reardon

Dandelion Salad

By Marguerite Reardon
Free Press
CNet
January 17, 2008

A decade after the government said that AT&T and other service providers don’t have to police their networks for pirated content, the telecommunications giant is voluntarily looking for ways to play traffic cop.

For the past several months, AT&T executives have said the company is testing technology to filter traffic on its network to look for copyrighted material that is being illegally distributed. James Cicconi, senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs for AT&T, reiterated the carrier’s plans last week during a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“We are very interested in a technology-based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this,” Cicconi said in a New York Times article. “We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies. But we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies, including NBC Universal, to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

AT&T’s plans would turn the nation’s largest telephone company into a kind of network cop, a role that some say could turn dangerous for the company. For one, filtering packets to determine whether they contain copyrighted material raises privacy concerns. And AT&T customers who have already been concerned about the company’s alleged role in the National Security Agency’s domestic spy program, could take their broadband, TV and telephony business to a competitor. Also, AT&T could be opening itself up to a mountain of legal troubles.

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