Internet villain nominees revealed

Nominations for the year's most infamous award - Internet Villain - have been announced. Privacy issues feature highly, but telecoms troubles have also produced a few surprises

The BBC, music publishers and a disparate group of analysts have been included in this year's shortlist for Internet Villain Award, joining regular nominees that include telecoms regulator Oftel and last year's winner the Home Office.

The awards are organised by the UK ISP Association (ISPA) and are announced in February. The BBC gained its nomination, said ISPA, for its Watchdog programme which included a report on the important issue of spam "that was more intent on vilifying ISPs than educating consumers".

Telecommunications analysts were included for what ISPA called "their substantial contribution to the meltdown in the telecommunications and Internet sector", and the RIAA for supporting "right to hack" proposals in the US and other "unworkable solutions to curb copyright abuse". In October it was revealed that the RIAA was planning to use what it called a "licensing virus" to target users' PCs directly to stop them from using peer-to-peer online services.

Oftel, which appears on the list for the second year running, was included for a host of reasons, said ISPA, chief among them was "failing to ensure expedient local loop unbundling by BT which has hindered both competition in the telco sector and the development of Broadband Britain."

And the Home Office made the list again this year for the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security (ATCS) Act, which will see ISPs having to retain all email and Web surfing data from their customers for several years. Continued delays associated the section with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that addresses who can access data once it has been retained under ATCS were also cited as a contributing factor to the shortlisting. The Home Office admitted recently that taken together, the two laws were likely to breach the Human Rights Act.

But it's not all bad news, as demonstrated by the Internet Hero shortlist. All the Internet Heroes are nominated for their work trying to address problems with data retention laws in the UK.

A Home Office made a surprise showing here: Simon Watkins, who first publicly recognised the problems with ATCS and RIPA, won his nomination for "doing his best to understand the industry, tech sector interest groups and experts and to subsequently inform discussions within the Home Office".

Other individuals shortlisted for Internet Hero include: last year's winner Elizabeth France, for her work on data retention legislation while she was information commissioner; Richard Allan, Liberal MP for Sheffield Hallam "for ongoing support and understanding of the Internet and the Internet industry", and Hugh Blunkett for briefing his father David Blunkett, Secretary of State for the Home Office, "on privacy fears associated with giving a raft of public bodies in the UK access to private email and mobile phone records".

The only organisation on the Intenet Hero section was the All-Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) for launching its public inquiry into data retention and access laws.

The winners for all categories will be announced during a gala dinner on 20th February 2003 at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square.

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