Head Of City of London Police Unit That Operates Without Court Orders Worries About Online 'Lawlessness'
from the know-thyself dept
A year ago, Techdirt wrote about a new unit set up by the City of London Police to tackle crimes involving intellectual monopolies. Since then, there have been a flood of posts about its increasingly disproportionate actions, including seizing domain names, shutting down websites, inserting ads on websites, and arresting someone for running an anti-censorship proxy. This makes a PCPro interview with the head of that unit, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Andy Fyfe, particularly valuable, since it helps shed a little light on the unit’s mindset. It’s well-worth reading the whole thing, but here’s a key section:
I’m very interested in having a debate in the media about how much policing of the internet people want. At the moment, there?s almost no regulation and no policing of the internet and that means members of the public — such as you and I — when we’re trying to use it for shopping or to do internet shopping, actually don?t have anyone looking out for our interests to make sure that the people we?re dealing with at the other end of the line are legitimate or reasonable or looking after our data properly.
In the end, that might mean that the internet becomes completely ungovernable, and that no one can dare operate on it at all, no one can dare do their shopping or banking on it.
DCI Fyfe seems to be talking about a different Internet from the one most of us use, which is not just subject to regulations, but to multiple regulations because of the way overlapping jurisdictions are involved. Indeed, because of this, the Internet arguably has far more policing than the physical world. Moreover, in terms of “looking out for our interests,” the Internet is unique in that its users are able to do that for themselves using online rating systems, reviews left on websites and general comments on social networks. Word about dodgy online operators gets out incredibly quickly, so in this respect, we are probably far safer online than in the physical world where such mechanisms are rarely available.
However, it is true that there is a threat to online shopping and banking, but not the one DCI Fyfe is probably thinking about. Buying and selling goods, or transferring money online, is relatively safe thanks to strong encryption that is now routinely available for such operations. Or rather, it was relatively safe until spy agencies like the NSA and GCHQ decided to undermine the entire basis of these activities for their own purely selfish ends, and disregarding the collateral damage they would cause to general users of the Internet.
Despite the harm caused by such actions, DCI Fyfe thinks a time may come when the government will want to interfere even more:
That time might come, but it’s how much interference the public will tolerate, because clearly a lot of people believe there should be no state interference at all on the internet, but that leads to lawlessness and anarchy.
The growing crusade of DCI Fyfe’s unit against online sites purely on the say-so of the copyright industry shows that he doesn’t really care what “a lot of people” think about state interference. And when it comes to “anarchy and lawlessness,” acting without court orders seems to fit that bill rather well.