"Speaking at a House of Lords event to mark the 20th anniversary of the invention of the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee said that deep packet inspection (DPI) was the electronic equivalent of opening people's mail."
No it's not. It's the equivalent of weighing mail in order to figure out how to best deliver packages. Small letters take one path through the postal system, large boxes take another. So-called "postal neutrality" laws would force the post office to route both letters and boxes the same, making the postal system less efficient.
Such "postal neutrality" laws would tilt the market in favor of delivery monopoly Federal Express. This is why the monopoly is pushing for such laws. In much the same way, monopolies like Google, eBay, and Amazon are pushing for net neutrality laws.
I'm joking about "postal neutrality", of course, but I'm not joking about net neutrality. People really do believe in regulating the Internet to help monopolies entrench themselves. People really do believe that "Vint Cerf" is some sort of wise-man saying what's good for the Internet, rather than simply a corporate shill for a monopoly (Vint Cerf is Google's most important lobbyest).
The great thing about our society is that you can encrypt your traffic if you don't want somebody to read it, and you can anonymize it through TOR for even more protection. Seems like it's a better bet to me to ensure that these freedoms are preserved, rather than fighting for a world where governments and Google can read our e-mail, but the ISPs cannot.
On an unrelated note, I'm also amused by this article that explains Deep Packet Inspection. When discussing DPI, the article claims "until now, this wasn't possible with IDS/IPS or stateful firewalls. The different is that DPI has the ability to inspect traffic at layers 2 through 7".
This isn't true. I wrote the first IPS (BlackICE Guard, now IBM Proventia). It's full layer 7, at multi-gigabit speeds. For example, one of the signatures it can block are e-mails with ZIP attachments, where the ZIP file contains a filename that has more than 4 space characters followed by a ".exe" extension. (Viruses put lots of spaces in front the .exe extension to prevent you from seeing it). Proventia has to reassemble TCP stream, parse layer 7 protocols like SMTP, and then parse RFC822 e-mail headers, MIME, BASE64 encoding, and finaly ZIP file format.
And, you know this is true because when the event fires, the full filename appears along with the event. This would be impossible without full 7 layer inspection.
The Proventia IPS does deeper layer 7 inspection than any of the DPI discussed in the "net neutrality" debate. It has done so since 1999. That's one of its selling features: it includes the 7 layer decoded information as part of its events (which no other IPS does).
The so-called "deep" packet inspection everyone is talking about is actually pretty shallow. While inspecting HTTP headers is certainly deeper than inspecting TCP headers, they still aren't capturing and indexing everyone's traffic -- at least, not any more than google-analytics does already.