The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is set to deploy vans next month across the country which will capture information from private Wi-Fi networks in a bid to catch those not paying their TV license fees, but who are still using iPlayer to watch content.
For those unclear about the rules, the BBC requires people to have a TV license if they want to watch or record live TV. From September 1, 2016, the law in the UK is changing to require users who use iPlayer to watch any TV content to get a license too, even if you’re just catching up.
According to The Telegraph, The BBC is being given special privileges to use Wi-Fi sniffing tech:
“The corporation has been given legal dispensation to use the new technology, which is typically only available to crime-fighting agencies, to enforce the new requirement that people watching BBC programmes via the iPlayer must have a TV license.”
The BBC is not disclosing its methods about how it will catch license evaders, but one theory is that the new detectors vans will intercept Wi-Fi traffic and use the encrypted packet sizes and timing to work out whether the network is carrying iPlayer traffic. This technique relies on the fact that BBC can introduce non-standard packet timing and size elements of the iPlayer traffic, acting as a fingerprint.
A spokesperson from the watchdog Privacy International said:
“While TV licensing have long been able to examine the electromagnetic spectrum to watch for and investigate incorrect usage of their services, the revelation that they are potentially developing technology to monitor home Wi-Fi networks is startlingly invasive.”
Cord-cutting - doing away with the old forms of watching TV - has seen a big shift towards on-demand content consumption, requiring the BBC to change its methods when it comes to finding those who should be paying for their TV license.