Europe starts giving policing power to ISPs

Posted by Mike Luttrell

How would you feel if the company you pay to provide your Internet service was able to track your online activity and issue sanctions against you, without police intervention? That's what is increasingly happening in parts of Europe.

The European Union is gaining strength for the idea of letting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) self-regulate when it comes to users accessing illegal content online.

This is sure to leave many individual users concerned, as there now is no requirement for the police to get involved. Their ISP can monitor their activity without a warrant, and can levy penalties against their own customers.

But ISPs aren't too happy about this idea. They're unsure if the new laws mean they have to do something if they notice a user accessing illegal online content. If so, that's a big burden on them. They don't like the idea of being charged with a crime just because they didn't do anything to Joe Schmo when he was pirating movies online.

For the governments involved, though, it's about accepting the fact that policing online activity is tough. They can't do it because they don't have access to it unless there's reasonable cause. But they don't want to create a nanny state where the government can spy on everyone. So this, they say, is the logical solution.

"The European Commission appears far from perturbed by the dangers for fundamental rights of this approach and appears keen to export the approach," said European Digital Rights advocacy coordinator Joe McNamee in a Networkworld.com story.

Something like this would probably never, ever work in the US, but there are already such legal policies in place in France, Ireland, and the UK.

Would you be comfortable if you knew Comcast or Time Warner Cable was under pressure to arrest you? This is certainly not a clean cut issue.