The BBC will be able to spy on people's Wi-Fi internet connections to ensure they aren't viewing iPlayer programmes without a valid TV licence.
That's the ludicrous suggestion of the National Audit Office, which has been working in cahoots with the BBC's PR harlots.
According to the Telegraph, the BBC has been given special legal dispensation to use snooping powers normally reserved for law enforcement agencies.
It is set to deploy the new technology from the start of September, when new legislation comes into force criminalising the viewing of on-demand BBC iPlayer programmes without a valid TV licence.
The new technology purportedly allows the BBC's revenue collection arm, TV Licensing, to track people receiving licensable content on their laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
Sir Amyas Moores, the Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office, said: "Detection vans can identify viewing on a non-TV device in the same way that they can detect viewing on a television set.
"BBC staff were able to demonstrate this to my staff in controlled conditions sufficient for us to be confident that they could detect viewing on a range of non-TV devices."
Apparently, the disclosure of this controversial new detection technique "will lay to rest the persistent claims that detector vans are no more than an urban myth designed to intimidate the public into paying the licence fee".
The BBC has sought to allay privacy concerns by claiming that the new technique cannot be used by TV Licensing to spy on non-licensable internet browsing habits.
The use of TV detection equipment is very strictly controlled by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (BBC) Order 2001. Its use is certainly not widespread or routine, despite TV Licensing's pretence of a fleet of detector vans cruising the streets of the UK. You can read a lot more about detection in our earlier articles here and here.
Information recently obtained by the TV Licensing Blog confirms there were only 116 detection requests made across the UK in the 12 months to 31st March 2015. In all likelihood, only a small proportion of those requests were actually granted.
Despite the apparent corroboration of the National Audit Office, we do not believe the BBC's claim that it possesses new technology capable of snooping on secure Wi-Fi connections.
It has been suggested that the BBC might be able to use a method known as "packet sniffing", which allows it to sample to size of Wi-Fi data packets without actually cracking into them. BBC iPlayer data packets, apparently, have a unique size and frequency that distinguishes them from all others.
However, such a technique could be easily overcome by determined evaders using a physical internet connection instead of a wireless one. We also doubt the technique would be able to distinguish between separate devices within an unlicensed property, some of which could be licensed by virtue of the person using them (e.g. a visitor watching TV programmes on their unplugged tablet).
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