AT&T plan against Internet piracy raises privacy issues

In a break with other ISPs, US telecommunications giant AT&T will work with Hollywood studios and recording labels to devise technology that identifies offshore content pirates who use its network to upload illegal copies of movies and music, an Associated Press report said.

Although details remain sketchy, the effort worries privacy advocates, who fear the company could become a beat cop, monitoring which web sites customers visit and what computer files they share, the Associated Press report also said.

Technology officers from several entertainment companies met June 5 in San Antonio to discuss the effort, which could take months and quite possibly fail to produce a solution that would be technologically feasible and protect customer privacy, the report said.

'It's daunting,' James W. Cicconi, AT&T's SVP of external and legislative affairs, was quoted by the report as saying.

'What we're trying to do here is see if we can devise a technology that can address the problem,' he said. 'Then we'll have to address the legal issues that flow out of using such a technology.'

Legal questions include the privacy interests of customers and legitimate distributions for educational uses or works in the public domain, the Associated Press report said.

Cicconi said such issues will not be ignored.

Consumer advocates have raised concerns, fueled in part by the lack of specifics from AT&T about the technology being developed, the report said.

They are also concerned that large media conglomerates are increasingly dictating how new technology can be used, the report further said.