The likes of SOPA, ACTA and CISPA may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t a number of legislative threats against online privacy looming on the horizon. From the Trans Pacific Partnership, to the UK’s impending porn filter, Western governments are continuing to try and curtail internet freedoms. Here are a few of the top threats incoming.
UK porn filter
Under pressure from worried parents and feminist campaigners, the UK government is planning on introducing an opt-in “porn filter” for UK ISPs. The filter would require anyone who wants to look at content deemed to be “pornography” to request their ISP opt them out of the filter. The stupidity of the idea has been well-illustrated by others, so we won’t go into that now, but there’s also a privacy implication. If the government creates a list of websites that are censored by default (and according to reports this will include very broad areas such as “esoteric content"), then you can be sure anyone who has opted into seeing that content will be immediately more prone to surveillance than those who do not.
The evolution of PRISM
Enough digital ink has been spilled over PRISM by now, so we’re sure you guys know what the programme involves (hint: it involves the NSA mining data from the servers of some of the biggest internet companies out there). Depending on your level of optimism there’s a question over what the US government will do now its activities are out in the open. Another interesting point is that there are still some US politicians pushing for a new version of CISPA to be introduced to the senate. In case you don’t remember, CISPA was all about facilitating the sharing of data between internet companies and law enforcement. The bill was passed in the House of Representatives, but failed to make it to the Senate. Perhaps it’s existence demonstrates how murky and underground the PRISM programme really was. Why would politicians be called for CISPA when law enforcement was already happily mining the data anyway (and legally, if you believe the Obama administration)?
The Trans Pacific Partnership is multi-national trade agreement that’s being negotiated between 12 nations – specifically, the USA, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei, Canada, Mexico and – most recently - Japan.The TPP has been billed by activists as an attempt to get the failed SOPA legislation passed through the back door. It contains a section dedicated to intellectual property, which the EFF says is “far more restrictive than currently required by international treaties, included the controversial ACTA” and “puts at risk some the most fundamental rights” that enable access to information. The TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors and with hardly any public consultation. The biggest problem with the TPP is that it’s a truly multinational piece of legislation that could be pressured onto other countries, outside of the group, and used to create a global standard of IP enforcement.
Data retention legislation
The entire EU (with a few notable exceptions) is subject to the EU Data Retention Directive, which mandates all ISPs store user data (such as web logs, addresses and billing info) for between one and two years after an individual leaves the ISP’s service. Although the Data Retention Directive is rarely discussed, it’s probably one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed when it comes to online privacy. The precedent set by the EU has encouraged other countries to try and follow the example, with the US and Australia considering similar legislation (although some US ISPs are already storing data without being legally compelled to do so). Definitely something to keep an eye on.