One aspect of globalization that we are just now beginning to understand, particularly in the realm of the Internet, is that various countries are mimicking one another when it comes to regulatory, censorship and data collection legislation. Internationally, states are participating in treaties or executive agreements, negotiated in secret, that would regulate the Internet. Domestically, nations are seeking legislation to accomplish similar objectives.
For instance, Britian’s Digital Economy Act of 2010 was very similar to SOPA and PIPA. It passed through the UK parliament and much of its provisions are coming into force now in 2012. More recently, India has taken measures to regulate the Internet that mirror America’s own, but did so without any piece of legislation. India simply issued court orders to force ISPs to block websites like The Pirate Bay and Daily Motion, to name just two.
And so it is with some concern that we look across the pond at the UK’s Communications Data bill.
The bill, which was made available on a UK government website June 14, would force ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and mobile service providers to collect and store user data. The NSA here in the US has secretly exercised this sort of control over ISPs like AT&T and without warrants, but this UK bill opens up a completely new Orwellian angle. It is startling in its brazenness. The message seems to be: we no longer want to spy on you in secret, we want you to know you are being spied upon. Orwellian, indeed.
Is it better, however, to make these matters public? That is, is it more effective to be public and open about the government’s desire to collect and store data? Yes and no. On a positive note, it puts the discussion directly in front of the people. On the other hand, in this modern age in which so much media and information competes for an individual’s attention, people can often not be bothered to invest much energy in researching and understanding legislation, let alone one of this magnitude.
And don’t think for a second that US and other world governments aren’t watching the debate around the UK’s Communications Data bill closely. If it does not hit significant opposition and ultimately passes, expect other countries to pursue their own versions of the bill.
Naturally, the onus is on the British people to write their MPs and urge them to reject the bill. And as this bill could have global repercussions, citizens of other countries should work to raise a ruckus.
If you are from the UK, head over to Open Rights Group’s site to write your MP.