Technology and Politics in Tunisia and Iran: Deep Packet Surveillance



Christopher Parsons

Faced with growing unrest that is (at least in part) facilitated by digital communications, repressive nation-states have integrated powerful new surveillance systems into the depths of their nations’ communications infrastructures. In this presentation, Christopher Parsons first discusses the capabilities of a technology, deep packet inspection, which is used to survey, analyze, and modify communications in real-time. He then discusses the composition of the Iranian and Tunisian telecommunications infrastructure, outlining how deep packet inspection is used to monitor, block, and subvert encrypted and private communications. The presentation concludes with a brief reflection on how this same technology is deployed in the West, with a focus on how we might identify key actors, motivations, and drivers of the technology in our own network ecologies.

Note: For more information on the Iranian use of deep packet inspection, see ‘Is Iran Now Actually Using Deep Packet Inspection?


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Christopher Parsons is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. His research focuses on how privacy is affected by digitally mediated surveillance, and the normative implications that such surveillance has in (and on) contemporary Western political systems. His dissertation, titled “What’s Driving Deep Packet Inspection? Motivations, Regulations, and Public Involvement in Telecommunications Regulatory Processes,” draws together Internet governance, traditional social sciences, and critical digital studies literatures to provide a holistic accounting of deep packet inspection’s powerful and plastic control-based processes. Christopher has published in CTheory, has a forthcoming publication in M. Moll’s and L. R. Shade’s (eds.) Establishing an Election Connection: Telecom Policy, and a forthcoming co-authored publication in W. Dutton’s (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. He regularly writes about surveillance, security, technology, and their implications at his website.