This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication - Western Union memo, 1876
WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER Jimmy Wales has accused the UK government of pursuing draconian internet monitoring plans.
"It is not the sort of thing I'd expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the internet industry," he said.
Wales was taking part and representing himself in a discussion about the government's plans to store online communications data, for *cough* law enforcement purposes. Also present were Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA), who said that it would have a great impact on the industry, and Malcolm Hutty, head of public affairs at the London Internet Exchange (LINX), who conceded that there might be a need to keep communications data, but told the panel that there is a risk that the data taken could be intrusive.
"We understand that data is useful for legitimate law enforcement purposes... but, data is intrusive," said Hutty. Hutty added that LINX did not want to make a judgement on where to draw the line and suggested that the government consider whether keeping such data is justified.
However, Wales took the strongest line, perhaps because he was there in a personal capacity. "We are talking about fundamental issues of human rights and privacy," he said. "Whatever we do, we should do it with the least possible impact on ordinary people who are not committing crimes."
Wales, the fiercest opponent of the plans, said that if ISPs are charged with monitoring what UK people are reading on Wikipedia then Wikipedia will encrypt that information, thereby keeping it out of those servers.
"If we find that UK ISPs are mandated to keep track of every single web page that you read at Wikipedia, I am almost certain we would immediately move to a default of encrypting all communication to the UK," he said.
These sentiments are echoed elsewhere, and opponents are quick to point out just how ridiculous and overbearing the government plans are.
"Jimmy Wales' description of the Communications Data Bill fits so much of what the UK is facing now, from the Digital Economy Act, opt-in Internet plans and an education system which is failing to keep pace with our European neighbours," Loz Kaye, the leader of the Pirate Party UK, said in a statement to The INQUIRER.
"But the snoopers' charter is not just technologically illiterate, it's socially illiterate. It turns us all from citizens into suspects. Far from keeping us safer, forcing ISPs to keep so much sensitive data puts us at new risk. All of this is to be done at taxpayers' expense, the bill writes a blank cheque for surveillance costs. Instead we should be investing in the digital infrastructure that this country so badly needs." µ
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