As we have documented well here that personal privacy continues to be under assault in America, a country that defined and once enshrined the concept.
The most recent assault is coming from the nation’s largest telecom companies, who are preparing to introduce a long-anticipated “six strikes” plan that will restrict Internet access for repeat offenders of copyright crimes, with one of the proposal’s staunchest backers saying such sanctions will begin later this year.
That would be Jill Lesser, executive director of the Center for Copyright Information, who recently told Wired that AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and Cablevision Systems will all soon force customers suspected of committing copyright infringement to certain “mitigation measures,” which are a series of steps aimed at discouraging piracy and illegal file-sharing. The measures include forcing offenders to read educational info about Internet crimes, truncating their Internet connection speed and maybe tossing them off the web altogether.
Effort to pass law stopped, but…
These top telecoms have been looking at ways to implement such a system for a number of years as a way to punish repeat copyright criminals with harder and tougher sanctions; they were expected to introduce this “six strike” system earlier this year.
“Due to a whirlwind of criticism aimed at the music and movie industry after Hollywood lobbied Washington lawmakers relentlessly to try and pass stringent legislation that would limit access to intellectual property online and restructure the Internet as we know it,” RT.com reported, “efforts to establish the mitigation measures as a way of making an impact on suspected scofflaws was swept under the rug.”
So the telecoms are doing what government can’t – implementing their own regulatory measures, complete with judge-and-jury type measures.
SOPA, PIPA redux
Remember SOPA and PIPA? The Internet freedom-killing measures we told you were little more than a thinly veiled censorship effort?
Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights organization, told Wired that the criticism heaped on the entertainment industry after its lobbyists attempted to have the Stop Online Privacy Act and the Protect IP Act passed stopped the telecom firms from implementing the six strikes program as planned.
However, she added, the public’s apparent compliant attitude between the symbiotic relationship between Hollywood and Washington lately may have emboldened the industry to start the sanctions on its own.
“SOPA and PIPA definitely had an impact. There was some concern, if they moved ahead too quickly, public opinion would be so raw, this would be caught in the whirlwind of bad PR,” she said.
Now, apparently, the telecoms believe the coast is clear to go ahead and implement their plan, with this very ominous warning, according to privacy experts: Be careful of the files you copy because repeat warnings could lead your ISP to cancel your account.
So now, it’s not the government who will be spying on your online activity (per se); it’s the private Internet industry itself.
Pulling the plug
Here’s how it likely will work:
Once an Internet Service Provider identifies a customer engaging in a fishy file transfer of an unauthorized item, the ISP can then send a simple “alert” that cautions against future infractions.
A second infraction will automatically redirect the surfer to an educational splash page that lets them know of the disadvantages of file sharing.
Third and fourth alerts, reports said, are likely to be warnings requiring the user to acknowledge their actions in some way. The fifth and sixth “strikes” will come with serious sanctions; according to telecom ground rules, “temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures (as specified in published policies) that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter” are going to be considered fair responses.
After six strikes, ISPs may pull the plug on you.