Open letters | Open internet and inclusive technology | Equal access to the internet

NGOs and academics warn against Deep Packet Inspection

By EDRi · May 15, 2019

Today, on 15 May 2019, European Digital Rights, together with 45 NGOs, academics and companies from 15 countries sent an open letter to European policymakers and regulators warning against the widespread use of privacy-invasive Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology in the EU. The letter addresses the ongoing negotiations of Europe’s new net neutrality rules, in which some telecom regulators appear to be pushing for the legalisation of DPI technology.

Deep Packet Inspection allows telecom companies to examine the content of our communications. Information about which apps we use, which videos we watch, and which news articles we read should be off limits for the telecom industry. Yet, with the proliferation of zero-rating in all but two European countries, the industry has started to deploy DPI equipment on a large scale in order to charge certain data packages differently or to throttle services and cram more internet subscribers in a network already running over capacity.

EDRi and its members have for many years advocated in favour of strong net neutrality rules that protect people’s privacy and prevent the discrimination of selected types of internet traffic.

And yes, Europe’s current net neutrality rules indeed ban DPI technology that examines specific user information for the purpose of treating traffic differently. Yet, a mapping of zero-rating offers in Europe conducted by EDRi member identified 186 telecom services which potentially make use of DPI technology. Most regulators have so far turned a blind eye on these net neutrality violations. Instead of fulfilling their enforcement duties, they seem to now aim at watering down the rules that prohibit DPI.

The negotiations of Europe’s new net neutrality rules are expected to continue behind closed doors and will be followed by a public consultation in autumn 2019. The final rules are then expected to be decided in March 2020.

EDRi and its member organisations will continue to fight for strong net neutrality rules in Europe that protect people’s privacy and prevent the discrimination of selected types of internet traffic.

You can download the letter here (pdf).

Read more:

Net neutrality wins in Europe! (29.08.2016)

Zero rating: Why it is dangerous for our rights and freedoms (22.06.2016)

A study evaluates the net neutrality situation in the EU (13.02.2019)