November 26, 2007

France Announces Massive Internet Surveillance by ISPs

Greetings. In a breathtaking act of arrogance reminiscent of the heyday of Louis XVI (and likely to trigger similar public reactions among many Internet users, though perhaps unfortunately absent the "equalizing" influence of la guillotine), the French government and its overseers (the entertainment industry), along with a cowering collection of gutless ISPs, have announced an agreement for ISPs to become the Internet Police Force in France.

Under the agreement (see below for links) ISPs will monitor users for presumed illegal activities (read that as "file sharing") and send reports on the accused to what amounts to an anti-piracy board.

This board could then mete out punishments as it sees fit, including (attempted) banishment from the Internet (via what amounts to a national blacklist).

To streamline the process, the entire procedure, as I understand it right now, would operate -- at least initially -- on an extrajudicial basis, without the messy intervention of courts, judges, trials, or other post-Magna Carta niceties that might help to assure that only the truly guilty are punished.

Proponents are arguing that this approach will avoid overly severe judicial judgments, but in reality it's clearly an attempt to avoid fixing broken laws, while kowtowing to entertainment industry demands.

The utter idiocy and recklessness of this approach is pretty much beyond description. It is ripe for privacy abuses on a grand scale, mistaken identities, false "convictions," and a long list of other associated problems.

On the positive side though, the plan is likely to speed widespread adoption of encryption, as even routine Internet communications move to secure and in some cases cloaked channels to avoid these kinds of repressive enforcement regimes.

It's one thing to use the conventional legal system to enforce legitimate intellectual property rights, but it's something wholly different to deputize ISPs into Network Monitors, feeding data to what apparently could easily become a Star Chamber operating outside the normal bounds of the conventional legal system.

More details from: BBC, or Le Monde (French) (or Google translation).

Liberté, egalité, fraternité?


Posted by Lauren at November 26, 2007 12:55 PM | Permalink
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