Privacy activists first to criticise Carter

The first reactions to Lord Carter's interim Digital Britain report have been flooding in, and almost all have been packed with as many fuzzy platitudes as the report itself. Almost.

The first reactions to Lord Carter's interim Digital Britain report have been flooding in, and almost all have been packed with as many fuzzy platitudes as the report itself. Almost.

Perhaps predictably, given the government's stated intention to force ISPs to effectively turn over user data to the record industry regarding filesharing, the Open Rights Group has a bone or two to pick with Carter & Co.

"We are extremely concerned that the voice of consumers and citizens is being marginalised," said ORG executive director Jim Killock in a statement.

"We are concerned that there is no suggestion that consumers and citizens should be represented on the proposed copyright 'Rights Agency'. Without our voices, such an agency could easily be dominated by industry's concerns at the expense of consumer and civil rights. Consumers would be very likely to get a bad deal."

"We are concerned at the government's proposals for technical 'solutions' for rights enforcement - technical 'solutions' to social issues tend to be expensive and fail. One by one digital music providers like iTunes and Amazon are moving away from DRM, and trusting their customers. This is a much better example for industry and government to follow."

"We also intend to look closely at proposals for recording and reporting alleged rights infringers. While we welcome the proposal to ask the courts before taking action, we are concerned at the potential for further erosion of privacy online."

Well said. Carter's report does mention that thorny issue of the burden of proof - can't wait for the lawsuits over that one! - but he's certainly out of sync with the intellectual property minister David Lammy, who told The Times on Monday that he was against legislating for the disconnection of naughty filesharers. There certainly appears to be something of an intragovernmental disconnect going on here.

Mind you, Carter doesn't really call for "pirates" to be disconnected - he calls for them to be sent nasty letters, which is kind of what already happens. The scary bit in his report is this: "We also intend to require ISPs to collect anonymised information on serious repeat infringers (derived from their notification activities), to be made available to rights-holders together with personal details on receipt of a court order."

That's where the dodgy 'technical solutions' mentioned by the ORG come in, and that's where the problems lie. The data may be anonymised, but it still means that all traffic has to be spied on.

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