Say what, Nick Clegg?

A massive round of applause from me for Nick Clegg and his vetoing of the “Snooper’s Charter” – alternatively known as the Communications Data Bill. But can anyone understand this paragraph in his email to Lib Dem members?

There is always a careful balance to strike between security and individual liberty and I have always agreed that we must help our law enforcement agencies keep up with the challenge of policing in the internet age – like the technical issue of what to do when there are more mobile devices with not enough IP addresses to go round.

While it is true that there is a shortage of unallocated (as opposed to unused) IPv4 addresses, it’s not a problem which is solely restricted to mobile devices. In any event, the world is gradually moving towards the IPv6 standard, which has enough addresses for around 2^128 devices. Put another way, that’s enough for a trillion devices a second to be allocated a unique address for the next trillion years.

In any event, the technical “issue” of IPv4 addresses being shared between multiple users and devices is almost as old as the internet itself. It’s not usually all that difficult to work out who(*) was using a specific IP address at a particular point in time if usage is being logged by your internet provider. Unless, of course, someone is attempting to hide their activity by using services like TOR. The use of such technologies to obfuscate illegal activities is a far more serious issue for policing and security than any shortage of IPv4 addresses.

(*) Within limits, of course. It becomes far more difficult to pin activity down to an individual device if you have several devices connected to the internet through the same router – for example, a BT HomeHub or similar.

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