Wikipedia Could Encrypt UK’s Connections If “Snooper’s Chart” Gets Voted
Jimmy Wales – founder of the world’s most visited online encyclopedia – has announced that Wikipedia is going to encrypt all incoming UK-based connections if Snooper’s Chart becomes law.
The legislation is aiming to track internet, text, and e-mail communications throughout the island. As such, Jimmy Wales warned that the “snooper’s charter” would have disastrous effects for British communications.
Furthermore, Mr Wales pointed that the legislation’s restrictive regime pales in comparison to others, such as China or Iran, and that Wikipedia will most definitely encrypt the connections if the program is passed as law.
Presenting evidence to MPs on the Draft Communications Data Bill, Wales said:
If we find that UK ISPs are mandated to keep track of every single web page that you read at Wikipedia, I am almost certain we would immediately move to a default of encrypting all communication to the UK, so that the local ISP would only be able to see that you are speaking to Wikipedia, not what you are reading.
That kind of response for us to do is not difficult. We don’t do it today because there doesn’t seem to be a dramatic need for it or any dramatic threat to our customers, but it’s something that I think we would do, absolutely.
He also said that the encryption would push the government to “hack” citizens’ web activities, and that “doesn’t sound like something a civilised democracy wants to be involved with”.
“It’s more like something I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese, and it would be detected immediately by the internet industry,” he added.
And since we’re on this matter, the internet industry is coming with strong evidence to a special parliamentary committee, which shows that the legislation could create opportunities for hackers and “malicious agents” to gain access to sensitive data about basically anyone who is online.
And they’re not the only ones to highlight this issue. The London Internet Exchange (LINX) told the MPs that there are major concerns about this legislation as it can create a “profiling engine”.
In other words, detailed profiles are to be created on everyone using electronic communications systems, while the “profiling engine” would also allow comprehensive data mining. Protecting such a database is of major importance, but if malicious third-parties would get their hands on it, that would represent “a significant threat to national security”.
Last but not least, the organisation said that the profiling engine amounted to “an enormously powerful tool for public authorities”. In their submission, LINX said:
“Its mere existence significantly implicates privacy rights, and its extensive use would represent a dramatic shift in the balance between personal privacy and the capabilities of the state to investigate and analyse the citizen.”
If Snooper’s Chart (in which £1.8bn were invested) passes, all UK ISPs and phone providers are to retain and keep for a period of 12 months the “traffic data” of every British citizen’s internet, text and mobile phone use.
Last but not least, Wikipedia’s founder warned that encrypting UK connections may not stop just at Wikipedia, but could be applied by other major websites, including Facebook and Google.
Shocking news from abroad indeed, but we are yet to see if the island is ready to take such a huge risk. Not to mention that ISPs and their users may have a say in this, after all.