Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales slams Draft Communications Data Bill

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales slams Draft Communications Data Bill

Warwick Ashford

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has slammed as “technologically incompetent” the Draft Data Communications Bill, which will make it easier for security and police services to spy on e-mails, phone calls and internet activity of UK citizens.

Jimmy Wales said Wikipedia would encrypt all its connections to the UK if local internet service providers (ISPs) are required by law to keep track of every single page accessed by UK citizens, according to the Guardian.

The Draft Communications Bill is designed to update existing procedures for allowing access to information such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses, but will not allow access to the content of conversations without a warrant.

Wales predicted a general move to encryption across the internet if UK ISPs are mandated to collect and store data for 12 months from overseas companies such as Google and Facebook.

Wales was addressing MPs and peers of a special select committee hearing pre-legislative evidence from the internet industry on the proposed Bill announced in May.

Wales told the select committee the government would have to resort to the "black arts" of hacking encryptions, which would be detected immediately by the internet industry.

The plans were sharply criticised by human rights campaigners when the Communications Data Bill was announced. Now UK ISPs have raised concerns about the responsibility for retaining and storing sensitive data from overseas third-party companies.

The internet industry is also concerned that the proposed legislation could damage commercial relationships. Critics have said the bill will create new opportunities for cyber criminals seeking sensitive private information about individuals, because it would produce detailed profiles of all users of electronic communications.

Home Office security officials estimate that the rapidly evolving nature of the internet stops them tracking up to 25% of communications data that could be used as evidence in terrorist and serious crime cases.

However, the Internet Service Providers Association said the government estimated that this could be cut by 10% and questioned whether this was sufficient to justify the proposals.

Despite the Home Office’s insistence that the move is required for security reasons and assurances by the government that safeguards will be built in, the proposed legislation has been widely criticised as an assault on civil liberties.

In May, Nick Pickles, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, described the proposed Draft Communications Bill as an “unprecedented and unwarranted attack” on privacy.


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