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[liberationtech] Draft Chapter on Deep Packet Inspection

Christopher Parsons christopher at
Wed Feb 6 11:57:11 PST 2013

Hi all,

My doctoral research focuses on the politics of DPI, with attention
spent to how the technology operates as a nexus for a host of competing
political interests. I've just made available the first chapter, which
outlines the 'lineage' of packet inspection devices as well as the use
cases of DPI. It's written to explain to social scientists (a) what the
technology is; (b) why it's significant. Analysis and argumentative
facets of the dissertation come later, in chapters six and seven, and
thus are significantly absent in this chapter. I thought that it might
be of interest to members on the list. Comments and feedback are welcomed.

This chapter traces the lineage of contemporary packet inspection
systems that monitor data traffic flowing across the Internet in real
time. After discussing how shallow, medium, and deep packet inspection
systems function, I outline the significance of this technology’s most
recent iteration, deep packet inspection, and how it could be used to
fulfill technical, economic, and political goals. Achieving these goals,
however, requires that deep packet inspection be regarded as a
surveillance practice. Indeed, deep packet inspection is, at its core, a
surveillance-based technology that is used by private actors, such as
Internet service providers, to monitor and mediate citizens’
communications. Given the importance of Internet-based communications to
every facet of Western society, from personal communications, to
economic, cultural and political exchanges, deep packet inspection must
be evaluated not just in the abstract but with attention towards how
society shapes its deployment and how it may shape society.



Christopher Parsons
Doctoral Candidate
Political Science, University of Victoria

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