The IETF has issued RFC 7258, aka Best Current Practice 188, “Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack”. This is an important document. Here’s a snippet of the intro:
Pervasive Monitoring (PM) is widespread (and often covert) surveillance through intrusive gathering of protocol artefacts, including application content, or protocol metadata such as headers. Active or passive wiretaps and traffic analysis, (e.g., correlation, timing or measuring packet sizes), or subverting the cryptographic keys used to secure protocols can also be used as part of pervasive monitoring. PM is distinguished by being indiscriminate and very large scale, rather than by introducing new types of technical compromise.
The IETF community’s technical assessment is that PM is an attack on the privacy of Internet users and organisations. The IETF community has expressed strong agreement that PM is an attack that needs to be mitigated where possible, via the design of protocols that make PM significantly more expensive or infeasible. Pervasive monitoring was discussed at the technical plenary of the November 2013 IETF meeting [IETF88Plenary] and then through extensive exchanges on IETF mailing lists. This document records the IETF community’s consensus and establishes the technical nature of PM.
The term “attack” is used here in a technical sense that differs somewhat from common English usage. In common English usage, an attack is an aggressive action perpetrated by an opponent, intended to enforce the opponent’s will on the attacked party. The term is used here to refer to behavior that subverts the intent of communicating parties without the agreement of those parties.
The conclusion is simple, but powerful: “The IETF will strive to produce specifications that mitigate pervasive monitoring attacks.”
I can’t help but see this as a shining example of the IETF living up to its legitimate-rule-making potential, as I described in my 2003 Harvard Law Review article Habermas@discourse.net: Toward a Critical Theory of Cyberspace.
Below, I reprint my abstract: Continue reading