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Internet surveillance attacks our privacy and right to information

AFP Photo / Ed Jones
Governments and media titans want to have the internet operated in their interests, which not only attacks our privacy, but our right to information, restricting the ability to work and educate ourselves, Jim Killock of the Open Rights group told RT.

“They want to have it operated in their interests rather than the interests of individuals. And that means attacks not privacy… that attacks our right to information. It does mean a lot of people are putting a lot of pressure on some very fundamental and important rights” he said.

In an attempt to clamp down on illegal downloading, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the British Video Association have requested BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and TalkTalk to submit information on piracy.  Those violating data protection laws could be subject to prosecution.

RT: These ISPs policing the Internet, basically they will be doing it on behalf of huge industry titans in the music and film business. Will they be willing to do that? Is that legal?  Should they be the ones to do that?

Jim Killock: The kind of things you’ve outlined I think would be very illegal. I think they will be extremely dodgy doing those kind of things. That’s why the legislation was proposed. Because if you start interfering in somebody’s communications, you are restricting their ability to work, to educate themselves, get a job… There are a lot of consequences. You can’t just simply start blocking sites or restricting somebody’s internet just because they’ve been entered on a database. Similarly if you are putting information onto a database then you have got privacy concerns, there are laws about data protection. That again is why legislation was proposed, because at least then there is a legal framework and it is clear who is responsible. The BPI, they could be doing some of this themselves. There are legal powers for them to seek the details of people they believe are infringing their copyright, to get that information through the courts, and to take individuals to courts if they’ve got the evidence.

RT: And do you agree that they would be within they rights to do that? They are making films and music to make money out of them.

JK: People do have legal rights, copyright is a legal right, and the BPI could take people to court and that would be reasonable. At least then you would know what the evidence was and somebody could say ‘well look I’m innocent’, ‘I didn’t do that, it’s not me.’  And you could see some logical conclusion, and that it’s transparent.

RT: This would mean that people would have no legal recourse?

JK: It could easily mean that. I think that’s why it is very dangerous. There is a big difference between what a court might do and private policing of the internet. I think we will be seeing a lot of pressure for that and it is very wrong.

RT: There are big concerns already about the government’s digital policies in general. We have heard complaints about surveillance. Attempts to censor what goes on the internet in general. Is that another thing in that trend?

JK: I think internet has suddenly become interesting to everybody – the secret services, governments, big industries – they all want a cut of the information. They want to have it operated in their interests rather than the interests of individuals. And that means attacks on our privacy, and attacks on our right to information. It does mean a lot of people are putting a lot of pressure on some very fundamental and important rights.

RT: What’s the point of this anyway? What if people will find another way of hiding themselves?

JK: There is a rub. With internet surveillance, with the sort of thing that the NSA and the British Secret Services have been doing, we know that really hardened criminals are evading those kinds of logging, making sure they are not getting caught by these measures. The same will happen here - people who are seriously trying to share files, who really don’t care about what the BPI have to say, they will carry on, and the technologies will evolve. At the same time the BPI, the music companies, the record companies are actually doing well out of the internet now. For the past couple of years they’ve really started putting the services out there – you’ve got Netflix, Lovefilm, as well as the music services that have become more established. People are starting to make money. That’s how you get to make money - you give people products they want to pay for. All this letter-sending threats, that’s a way to alienate you customers, it’s not a way to make money.