AT&T Mulls Monitoring Your Traffic

When a company like AT&T starts talking with the MPAA and the RIAA, you can bet that won’t translate into more freedom with your media. And sure enough, the telecom giant thinks that it’s a good idea for its ISP business to start filtering content for pirated material at the network level, according to The New York Times.

During a panel discussion at CES this week, James Cicconi, senior vice president, external and legal affairs for AT&T, said he believes current measures being used to fight piracy aren’t working. And so AT&T has been talking with other tech companies — and the MPAA and RIAA (ugh) — about implementing digital fingerprinting technology.

Cicconi was quoted in the Times as saying:

“We are very interested in a technology-based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this,” he said. “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.”

Civil rights groups are rightfully worried about the Big Brother-like effect this could have on free speech. AT&T itself has said that criticizing the company is a violation of its terms of service. Meanwhile, also at CES, FCC Chair Kevin Martin confirmed that his commission will investigate Comcast blocking BitTorrent traffic (Comcast says it just delays the files).

Of course piracy is a legitimate concern, but rather than using a blunt instrument to force consumers into behaving a certain way — just put all the content online in an ad-supported format. If people have access to it, they won’t need to steal it.