It’s been a few days since the controversial Digital Economy Bill got the final approval from Parliament, now it only needs Royal Assent to become law.
Despite a concerted and impressive online lobbying campaign, it seems that party politics was more important than Twitter outcry.
But now the dust has settled the time has come to give the bill and all its last minute amendments some scrutiny. One thing that immediately sprung out to me on reading the bill was its assumption that IP address equates to an individual.
Much has been made of this connection when talking about War-Drivers hacking your router or shared wi-fi access points in cafes, but my mind immediately thought of another situation where IP addresses are shared across hundreds, if not thousands, of users – 3G mobile phones.
When mobile phone customers connect to a 3G network using an iPhone or similar they aren’t always allocated a unique IP address. More often than not they just cycle through IP addresses.
To quote Richard Clayton of Cambridge University, who’s a bit of an expert on the subject:
Mobile phone companies are using Network Address Translation on a massive scale to allow hundreds of Internet access customers to share a single IP address. In practice the NAT logging records, that record the mapping from IP address to customer, are available for only a short time — or may not exist at all.
I’m the first to admit I’m no expert in how the DEBill is expected implemented, or the mobile technology behind the scenes, but on searching the bill there doesn’t seem to be any mentions of NAT or the Port technology behind it.
Meaning banning an IP address being used to contravene the bill/act on a mobile device could have far wider reaching impact than it would on a home device.
Perhaps the title of this piece is a bit of an exaggeration, but it seems either the mobile companies are going to need to keep far more comprehensive records, unless groups of users get their access removed based on an IP address lottery.