Birds of a Feather Session on ``Ethical and Legal Aspects of Network Measurement''

Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 5:45pm - 6:45pm

This year the ACM/Usenix Internet Measurement Conference (IMC) will hold a BoF on ethical and legal aspects of network measurements. These are topics that have not received a great deal of attention but affect the work of almost everyone in our research community. The issue is best summarized by the statement, "The only difference between Internet measurement research and hacking is intent" (Andre Broido). What we do involves probing, prodding, and measuring things that were not always intended to be probed and prodded, and this can have negative consequences if it is not done carefully. Moreover, legislation exists to protect various rights such as privacy, but the majority of our community are not lawyers, and it does not seem that it is a trivial matter to answer even simple questions about measurement activities, particularly when one considers the international nature of the Internet. Add to this the fact that some types of measurements might appear to be an attack, and there is the potential for serious problems.

Our view is that, rather than sticking our heads in the sand, we should openly discuss these issues. IMC is the obvious place to start such a discussion as it brings together a large group of those most involved. IMC is a technical conference, and as such there is limited room in the main program for such conversations, hence we are organizing an informal BoF intended to "get the ball rolling". We will provide an open forum to allow people to (briefly) express a position with regards to ethics or legality of network measurements. Positions regarding privacy, anonymization, etiquette, fair use of data/facilities, etc. are all welcome.

The immediate goal is to provide a forum for discussion to increase everyone's awareness of where laws do and don't exist, and to what extent they are enforced. We'd also like to gauge interest in creating a working group to engage in an ongoing discussion of these topics. We could also discuss longer-term goals such as whether or not IMC should provide some rough guidelines to authors about what are considered appropriate measurement techniques. Such a group might also seek to have an impact on future government policies, in particular through providing technical information to inform policy makers about what is technically practical within the scope of Internet measurement.

The BoF will take place on Wednesday the 24th of October (concurrent with the conference reception) after the main program of the conference. All attendees are invited to make a presentation though we ask that these be very short (5 minutes) to ensure plenty of time for discussion. To help in organization of the session, please inform the conference chairs of your intention to make a presentation by Tuesday the 23rd of October. Contact the chairs at