BT's Click project could encourage the proliferation of illegal content on the Internet according to the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) which has now lodged a written complaint with the telecoms watchdog, Oftel.
In its five point missive ISPA's chief executive David Kennedy criticises BT's plans to provide a pay-as-you-go service as a hazardous venture that could potentially undermine much of the work done by the Internet Watch Foundation.
Click - which is a codename for the 1p per minute service announced by BT last month - promises to get people on the Internet without the need for logging on' with a service provider. This, says Kennedy "is anonymous IP and makes accountability virtually impossible". Kennedy explains that although the dialler's number is traceable the user's identity is not because there is no log-in procedure with a password and user name. "That means you could go to any location dial in, post what you like and dial out. No one would know who you are."
ISPA's concerns have alerted both the Police and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) which was set up specifically to deal with child pornography on the Internet. David Kerr, the IWF's chief executive says the plan presents "another loophole... inevitably making our job harder". Kerr has discussed the issue with Kennedy: "I've already said to ISPA that if BT's plan does allow people to get onto the Net without being positively identified we would be very concerned. It goes against the spirit of the SafetyNet agreement (the agreement between DTI, Police and the industry when IWF was first formed) because the industry took on the responsibility to do away with anonymous IP."
Chief superintendent Martin Jauche of the Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit was quick to condemn BT's plans. "We would not welcome any developments that make anonymous postings easier. The majority of child porn postings use anonymous means."
Jauche's team are hard pushed dealing with the illegal activity that already exists on the Internet, a fact BT's head of consumer marketing, Kevin Piper seized upon. "Illegal content exists on this alleged controlled medium (the Internet) and doesn't just exist on our services," he says. While Piper concedes that "there is an element of truth" in the issues raised, he asserts that "nobody is aware of the security steps we are currently looking at".
Piper was asked why BT was prepared to offer a service that did not use traditional authentification to positively identify a user. He says someone would have to be "pretty stupid" to log on using ID and a password and then proceed to post illegal content. "We are looking at this issue and will take steps to ensure security is assured." Those steps, says Piper are private and not for discussion with the media.
Since speaking to ZDNet News UK, Piper has invited ISPA, the IWF and the Police to contact him directly on this matter.
ISPA's other points of concern over Click include:
- Impact on industry and consumers. ISPA believes competition is important for the consumer and the industry and that Click's very low cost could undermine other ISPs.
- Because Click targets new or inexperienced users, they should have a high level of support. ISPA believes Click could actually put people off using the Internet because it is not convinced BT will be able to staff support desks adequately with its current pricing strategy.
- Concern that Click may be cross subsidised thus breaching condition 18 of its licence.
- Billing: ISPA is concerned that other ISPs cannot offer Click's unique billing facility.