“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media. Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
—Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain addressing Parliament during a special debate on the UK riots.
Increased surveillance it obviously cheaper than social change. Riots are bad but they are a incredibly potent symbol that something is wrong in society. So far the focus has been on “bad kids”, “bad parents” and “bad social media”. It’s all about blaming the individuals and preventing the possibility of rioting – Nothing about the need to create a society were people don’t want to riot.
The UK is merrily going down the same yellow brick road as many other jurisdictions. This report is from Technollama:
The air of inevitability surrounding three strikes legislation in the UK came to its fruition yesterday with the announcement by Lord Mandelson that the government will seek to pass legislation that will force intermediaries to disconnect users involved in file-sharing. I hate to say “I told you so”, but I have been harping about three strikes for a while. The blogosphere is already replete with replies to the new development, so I will not add my voice to the overwhelming condemnation of this step by directing readers to ORG and PanGloss.
Virtual Law@LSE writes that BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse have all signed up to the Government’s new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on File Sharing. [BBC, Guardian, Telegraph]
The MOU means that the companies have to work to create a “significant reduction” in illegal filesharing. This may sound easy enough but spying on customers and accusing them of violating copyright law is not really good business – especially for companies whose business it is to sell faster (and more expensive) broadband. The ISP’s have in the MoU agreed to send out “informative letters” to customers whose accounts have been identified as being used for potential file sharing. But as Virtual Law@LSE writes:
It would appear many thousands of people will get letters from their ISPs telling them that the BPI has identified them as potentially being in breach of copyright. The ISPs should be careful here in terms of customer relations. It is never a good idea to tell a customer of your that someone believes them to be a copyright infringer. It will (a) suggest you are snooping on them (which to an extent is true), (b) suggests you are entitled to lecture them on their activities online and (c) suggests you are serving the interests of the BPI not their own customers.
In order to be able to send the letters to suspected file sharers the ISP’s must either monitor all data traffic or only monitor those who use unusually high amounts of broadband. Either way the ISP’s are uncomfortably close to violating peoples privacy. Maybe not in a legal sense and maybe they are acting within the limitations of their customer contracts but still tantamount to surveillence and a violation of privacy.
It is also a form of privatized regulation through technology which sits uncomfortably with the potential freedom that the technology enables…