Belfast Telegraph

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BBC denies its vans will detect people watching iPlayer without a TV licence

By Harry Cockburn

The BBC has described as "inaccurate" claims that the broadcaster will use TV detector vans capable of capturing information from private wi-fi networks to discover people watching iPlayer without a TV licence.

The claims by the Telegraph come as the BBC closes a loophole that allowed access to BBC programmes without having to pay the £145-a-year licence fee.

From September, anyone watching the BBC's catch-up TV service iPlayer must have a valid TV licence.

On Saturday, the Telegraph said the BBC plans to clamp down on those streaming iPlayer without a licence by using vans that will "fan out across the country capturing information from private wi-fi networks in homes to 'sniff out' those who have not paid the licence fee."

According to the article, which quotes University College London computer network expert Dr Miguel Rio, the "most likely explanation" for how the BBC could carry out such surveillance would be a technique known as "packet sniffing", in which analysts are able to examine the traffic passing over a wireless internet connection, without needing to crack the wi-fi password.

Analysts can then look at the size and frequency of "packets" of data to see if they match the output of the BBC's iPlayer programmes, the article says.

But the BBC described it as "inaccurate reporting"

"While we don't discuss the details of how detection works for obvious reasons, it is wrong to suggest that our technology involves capturing data from private wi-fi networks," it said.

Belfast Telegraph