Blog: Giving the red light to illegal content
17 July 2013
The long term discussion and debate about monitoring and control of the internet, in particular access to illegal or age restricted content, has come to the front again sadly due to recent events.
From a monitoring stand point we have seen the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act being kicked around and debated and contested for years. In very broad terms it is difficult to argue with a piece of legislation which is trying to keep pace with the changing and adapting behaviour of criminals and terrorists and their use of technology to help do wrong or actually commit and unlawful. While the form of the Bill is flawed, I suggest largely down to a lack of understanding of the infrastructure and protocols used in the systems which it attempts to cover, its essence is correct, true and proper. I argue that there should be protocols and mechanisms in place which assist the law of the land to be enforced and better still where possible prevent atrocities before they happen.
There would be no big red flashing light or your name in 10 foot high LED’s when controlled or sensitive content was access. Instead the origin and destination of a digital transmission, not the content of the transmission, would be securely logged and stored for a defined period of time; some calls are for up to 7 years. Anyone requiring access to this log would need to part of an official body and approach an ISP like IFB through an official channel. This digital evidence would then be scrutinised by experts to determine what to do next.
The danger some say is that this system or process could be abused to snoop on anyone’s activity and that innocent people could be accused of wrongdoing. Is this not true in all law making and enforcement?
People do get things wrong, even those with vast intellect and experience, when they are asked to look at evidence and apply their expertise and judgement. This unfortunately happens in the real world all the time and will continue to happen regardless if the evidence is in hard copy or digital format.
The connected activity which may at times be linked with monitoring and logging is the blocking content, the two being separate issues and must be viewed as such. Unless you are a dictatorship locking down some or all or some internet access on a geographical basis is very difficult. The recent examples of this in Libya, Syria and Egypt where in each of these cases we have seen the attempts to block Internet access in various forms very publically thwarted.
We agree that illegal content, in any form, is illegal content and should be restricted where it can be and acted upon when discovered. We play our part when this type of activity is flagged to us either from owners of copyright protected materials or of course an enforcement agency. It doesn’t happen that often as in general as a business ISP our job is a little easier as with some clever bits of kit, technology and expertise we can help your company enforce your restrictions, and compliance standards, as to who gets to see what.
In our world we do what we can to protect our clients and the user of the service we provide but as a business customer and employer you also have a liability to do your bit.
On an individual user level it is very different. Not only is it difficult to force restrictions on everything you see on all the devices you choose to use but policing this is down to what a user deems appropriate content with no line manager or policies in place to inhibit this in any way.
While there has been some great and progressive work done by the biggest ISP’s in the UK who have signed up to a code of conduct, and work has been done by some of the largest WiFi hotspot providers all very much in line with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety but as we have seen replying on people to self-regulate works for the majority but it is the minority that makes the tragic headlines.
Protection innocent people and stopping access to illegal content is a good thing. The real issue as flagged by many others is that logging and blocking content takes resources and money and we do this for our business clients on an individual basis .Major internet companies have recently pledged to provide the Internet Watchdog with additional funds to seek out child pornography and block illegal content around child abuse
In IFB’s case if we had to log and keep records of all our traffic for prolonged periods this would take a considerable investment on our part. Similarly if we had to offer a service to all our clients where we proactivity blocked content and you had to opt out or register to opt out this would also cost money.
We firmly believe that there are methods and models that work when it comes to protection and prevention but the technology in the vast majority of cases in not the solutions.
Ripa only covers the top six ISPs in the UK, accounting for 90 per cent of domestic accounts. As it gets harder for someone to do something illegal with a larger ISP they will move to the smaller ones. And that to me is not good for business.