Net monitoring an onerous move

03 Nov 2011

I find it onerous that the UK and US governments are discussing ways to beef up web security and crack down on illegal downloads, particularly in light of discussions by both governments about restricting access or monitoring social networks.

Officials from the countries met with business leaders in London this week to thrash out joint protection measures on the premise that a coordinated cross-border policy is now required due to the openness of the Internet, the Wall Street Journal reports.

What I’m skeptical about is references to maintaining the open nature of the Web while creating what UK foreign secretary William Hague calls “rules of the road.” He proposed seven rules that should ensure governments “act proportionately in cyberspace and in accordance with international law; protection of freedom of expression; respect for privacy and copyright; and proposed joint action against criminals acting online,” the report states.

Bear in mind this is the same UK government that gave serious consideration to clamping down on the use of social media only a couple of months ago, after services including RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger were implicated in aiding rioters in England.

The US government is no better. While vice president Joe Biden asked the conference how governments can ensure Web security “without compromising the openness that is one of the Internet's greatest attributes,” the ‘land of the free’ is now mulling how to monitor social media after it was used as a key weapon in public uprisings in the Middle East earlier this year, the Daily Mail reports.

Caryn Wagner, undersecretary of the US homeland security department, says guidelines to allow security services to access Twitter and Facebook accounts are being developed under stringent rules to prevent monitoring tipping over into outright spying on citizens.

While I don’t doubt such guidelines are necessary from the point of view of preventing terrorism and other national security concerns, I do wonder who will guard the guards to prevent that monitoring becoming a method of controlling society.

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