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Monday, 8 August 2016

The BBC Has No Right to Hack Private Wi-Fi Connections

The backlash against the BBC's mooted new Wi-Fi detection capabilities continues.

Some letters published in today's Telegraph:
SIR – It is disquieting that our national broadcaster is allowed to trample over privacy laws to police its online business (“BBC to deploy detection vans to snoop on internet users”, report, August 6).

HM Revenue and Customs, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and every single bank can all supply me with secure internet services without resorting to hacking into my Wi-Fi connection to check that I’m complying with terms and conditions. They achieve this by issuing me with a username and password. Why is this not an option for the BBC?

The sight of this self-righteously strident media mafia subverting anti-terrorism legislation to strong-arm viewers into funding its grotesquely top-heavy salary bill is unedifying.

Jim Curry
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
SIR – Phlegmatic and dull the English must be, or how else could the nation put up with TV Licensing’s appalling treatment of anyone who has no licence, assuming that they are criminal if they decide not to soak up television programmes.

Let us hope the spying software employed by the BBC to invade our privacy will lead to some a revolt. If the BBC can do it, who next?

But why must we put up with such a procedure as having to buy a TV licence? A subscription system must be cheaper and much more effective.

Robin Hull
London N5
SIR – As a BBC licence payer, I object to people stealing the service. Television programmes are expensive to make, so why should individuals not have to pay for them? How would Sky, Amazon or Netflix produce programmes if these were watched at no cost?

Technology to identify services carried by Wi-Fi just from the frequency and volume of the data packets sent is well established. It implies no loss of personal privacy.

Peter Glen
Ipswich, Suffolk
SIR – Sell off the BBC. Let it live on the money it makes selling its successful production, and remove the disgraceful hypothecated tax of the “licence fee”.

John Evans
Sevenoaks, Kent
SIR – Detector vans themselves may not be a myth, but it is undeniable that the BBC (following a long drawn‑out freedom of information request) has admitted that no one has ever been prosecuted on TV detector van evidence.

Such evidence is not admissible in court, as the full details of the operation of the detection equipment would have to be made available to a defendant to use, if he wished, in his defence. Full details of speed cameras, for example, are available in speeding prosecutions. But details of detection equipment have never been released by the BBC or TV Licensing.

By the way, I do have a TV licence.

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire
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Anonymous said...

Interesting article here from techies.


198kHz said...

Jim Curry's letter sums it up perfectly.

Fred Bear said...

The source of the Telegraph story can be found online. It's taken from the:

Television Licence Fee Trust Statement for the Year Ending 31 March 2016.

It can be found on the NAO website and on the TVL site as well (just stick the above title in google) The section of interest is in The Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report to the House of Commons (pages 26-43)

There's no mention or hint of any wi-fi detection.

On page 38 it says:

"The BBC’s final detection and enforcement option is its fleet of detection vans.  Where the BBC still suspects that an occupier is watching live television but not paying for a licence, it can send a detection van to check whether this is the case. TVL 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."

This sounds like the infamous "optical detectors".

On pages 37-38, the BBC says it does not monitor "individuals' access to streaming sites on the internet" nor can it request "lists of subscribers to other providers of television
services, and therefore cannot cross check these lists against the TV Licence database".

There is some interesting stuff in the report. For example on page 38 it is stated that of the households identified  by TVL as watching TV online without a licence, 64% bought a licence and 36% did not as a result of the enforcement process. Of the 36% who did not buy one, 73% were not prosecuted or fined. This would seem to indicate that less than 10% of cases where TVL claimed to find evasion resulted in prosecution.