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Friday, 5 August 2016

BBC Behind Ludicrous Wi-Fi Detection Claims


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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The BBC can safely claim whatever it wants because, as is currently the case, it will avoid at all costs having to prove its supposed new technology in court.

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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aye, a load of scare mongering bollocks which, sadly, will scare some people (probably those watching Columbo) into paying. The Reg has done an analysis and the Telegraph is in fact mis-reporting, but I suspect it is exactly this kind of perception which the beeb is happy to have set.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/06/bbc_detector_van_wi_fi_iplayer/

nonroadusr said...

And to think all of this nonsense could be avoided if the BBC were funded via subscription ;-)

Syd Floyd said...

Let me guess ..We can detect WiFi signals with a 97% probability !

Pascal Poisson said...

Another puff piece conjured up by the BBC's PR lackeys. The NAO report doesn't say the BBC are going to monitor your Wi-Fi. It says that they can detect non-TV devices in the same way as they can detect TVs. This is currently by focussing a 'high powered lens' at your windows and comparing the RGB light fluctuations with broadcast material. (Yes, believe it or not, post Savile, the BBC are quite happy to spy on you with 'high powered lenses').

Moreover, in paragraph 1.19 the NAO report says 'The BBC views the number of people watching TV on a non‐TV device as too small to warrant a specific strategy to tackle evasion using new technology.'

Just another example of the appalling lackadaisical reporting the UK media are quite happy to dish out.

High Street Tours said...

Just insulated my router with some tin foil.

Anonymous said...

Simply way to solve this speculation that the BBC can detect viewer content via Wi-Fi, ask the internet's army of individual nerds who eat,sleep,live and breath the internet and all things nerdy.

If they turn around and say "Yep, that can be done with just this equipment" then the BBC "might" be telling the truth. But if said internerds turn round and say "Nah, bollocks. You'd need NSA levels of hardware" then we can comfortably say the BBC is talking testicles.

Shady Pete said...

Assuming the BBC's claims are true, rather than total bollocks that they are, could Capita's much-more-powerful-than-GCHQ "technique" tell the difference between a header of an iPlayer frame (which will shortly require a TV Licence) and a Radio iPlayer header which will still be licence-free.

Chris (aka: TheKnightsShield said...

"BBC iPlayer data packets, apparently, have a unique size and frequency that distinguishes them from all others."

Oh, the irony. :D Their only "unique size" and "frequency" is bloated, just like all the other content they spew out, freely and unencrypted, I might add. If these money grabbing idiots just encrypted their services, we wouldn't have to deal with all this constant drivel about "special snooping powers" and so on. What these idiots fail to realise is that by going down the subscription route, they'd be able to dictate their own costs/fees, thereby, not having to rely on the government. When will our government wake the hell up and put a stop to this ridiculous nonsense and FORCE the BBC to begin a subscription service?! Obviously not anytime soon, not as long as there are former BBC staff working for the government, constantly campaigning against the idea of a subscription based BBC. Idiots, the lot of them. :(

Anonymous said...

I have been working in IT industry since late 1998 as technicain and i firmly belive this pure scare mongering done by BBC.

1. MTU is set by your router, each packet goes out or comes back is all encrypted which would mean that they need to break the encryption which make them liabable to lawsuit.

2. If you use cable connection it is virtually impossibole to access the data or even know what is going on. So all this is load of rubbish.

A better solution would be that those who pay for license simply get a email / letter sent with a username / password and so they lock out BBC iplayer.

That said there might be some legal issues with this approach.