It’s easy to be critical of legislation that proposes to monitor vast swathes of our internet usage, and we are. It’s less simple, however, to understand exactly what the anticipated ‘snooping’ bill will actually demand of ISPs, and how feasible it will be to meet those demands.
James Blessing of the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) lays out some of the concerns. He seems to suggest that the Government doesn’t really understand how the internet works, and yet that those in power want to exercise watertight surveillance over the myriad of chat features offered by particular services, many of which don’t relate specifically to the service the ISPs provide. He mentions, for example, Skype and (yes, really) World of Warcraft.
In addition to the complexity of even attempting to corral the vast range and diversity of communications that take place over the internet into a malleable whole, there’s the high cost involved. Blessing mentions £4 billion, £5 billion, but there’s really no way of telling how high costs could rise. Surely this is money that would be more effective directed to environmental protection, or the arts, or education, or the NHS, or … well, pretty much anywhere.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s the colossal risk that this data, once stored, could easily be misused for commercial gain or worse. Blessing notes that ISPs are already aware of the potential for this, but he doesn’t touch on the even more sinister possibility of widespread data leaks. Why should the Government have access to this information in the first place, and why on Earth would we trust them to use it responsibly and store it safely?