BBC To Snoop On Your Wi-Fi – And It’s Legal


by Victoria Friedman 7 Aug 2016

The BBC will be deploying a new technology to spy on your Wi-Fi in your own home to see if you are watching their programmes ‘illicitly’. And they’ve been given the legal dispensation to do so.

From next month, BBC vans will be travelling up and down residential streets across the country to capture information from private Wi-Fi networks in homes to “sniff out” those who have not paid the licence fee, The Telegraph reports. Privacy campaigners call it “creepy and worrying”.

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, the BBC is entitled to carry out surveillance of suspected licence-fee evaders. The corporation has been given legal dispensation to use a new technology, which is only available to crime-fighting agencies, to enforce the new requirement that people watching BBC programmes via iPlayer must have a TV licence.

At present the annual £145.50 licence fee is required by law for anyone who watches or records live programming (on television or online). But from the 1st of September those who use iPlayer only for non-live catch-up viewing will also need to pay the fee, this change occurring after the BBC successfully lobbied the government to change the law.

The BBC has already been investigated for its use of draconian surveillance laws to pursue non-payers of the licence fee, and has been criticised for wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds in failed prosecutions for non-fee payers.

Electrical engineering experts speculate that the BBC would carry out its surveillance using a technique known as “packet sniffing”. This involves watching traffic pass over a wireless internet network – Wi-Fi being used in practically every home with internet in the country – without breaking its encryption or hacking into the connection.

Packet sniffing is illegal, but the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act gives certain bodies permission to monitor internet communications; the BBC has been given authority under the Act to watch home Wi-Fi connections.

Dr. Miguel Rio, a computer network expert, said that licence-fee inspectors could sit outside a property and view encrypted “packets” of data travelling over a home Wi-Fi network. This would allow the licence enforcement agents to establish if devices at homes without television licences were accessing BBC programmes online.

Dr Rio said: “They actually don’t need to decrypt traffic, because they can already see the packets. They have control over the iPlayer, so they could ensure that it sends packets at a specific size, and match them up.”

A spokesman for 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.”

A spokesman for TV Licensing said: “We’ve caught people watching on a range of devices, but don’t give details of detection as we would not want to reveal information helpful to evaders.

“Our use of detection is regularly inspected by independent regulators.”



4 Responses to “BBC To Snoop On Your Wi-Fi – And It’s Legal”

  1. driver47a says:

    I know people who refuse to pay this fee as it only an act and an act is not subject to criminal law.

  2. Aldous says:

    The ridiculous UK ‘TV License’ is only enforceable by deception and ignorance. The ‘detector vans’ were empty of any technology but served their purpose of intimidating people into getting a TV License. I suspect what I’ve just read is of a similar nature in the main – even if the technology described is possible.

    Enforcement is contracted out and I think the ‘enforcement drones’ are Capita employees who have no right of access to one’s home and none of their questions need to be answered. If you bother to open the front door, you can just shut it in their faces with “Have a nice day or Go F yourself!” whichever one prefers.

    I’m reliably informed that even those without a TV etc will be bombarded with Capita’s infantile ‘hate mail’ stating such nonsense as ‘your house is being watched’ and ‘surveillance teams are in your area’ etc, etc. I’m told the best course of action is simply to ignore their correspondence and never to contact them – which is a citizen’s right.

    Apparently, most if not all people who get taken to court, naively sign a document to say that the enforcement drone has visited the premises, when in fact it is an admission that they are watching a TV without said license.

    It’s also worth mentioning that it’s your Strawman / Legal Fiction / Fictional Identity (assigned at Birth Registration and ALL IN CAPITALS) which is being targeted and not the real human you. Never forget that.

    Meet Your Strawman (5:01)


  3. ROTH says:

    They’ve been spying on us for a long time –

  4. Neil_Duran says:

    The BBC don’t have the technology to link to unlicensed properties via the aerial or satellite. The BBC depend on an army of inspectors. To pick up wi – fi signals would require very powerful detecting technology and would be under patent if it did exist. This technology would be more likely under the use of government agencies than the BBC.

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