Tag: ISP

Swedish Pirate Party to host WikiLeaks servers

The Swedish Pirate Party has announced that it will host servers for WikiLeaks and provide bandwidth for the document leak website free of charge.

Deputy party leader, Anna Troberg, revealed that the plan was to get several servers up and running within days, to be housed at an undisclosed location in Sweden. WikiLeaks already has several servers in Sweden, hosted by free speech ISP and webhost PRQ, most famous for hosting the Pirate Bay torrent site, a website that also received aid from the Pirate Party earlier this year when a German court ruling took it offline.

This is not the first time that a political organisation has sided with WikiLeaks. In June the Icelandic government passed a law called the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, which was co-authored by a number of organisations, including WikiLeaks. This allows for superior protection for journalists and whistleblowers in Icelandic, making it a transparency haven.

Actually hosting WikiLeaks, however, is an even bigger step for a political group. The move comes just before the September 19 elections in Sweden, which Troberg hopes will get her party into parliament. She said that she expects the deal with WikiLeaks will garner additional support for the Pirate Party from the public.

It seems unlikely, however, that they will get into power. When combined with other small parties in Sweden they amass less than two percent of the total vote, which is half of what is required to get into parliament, let alone have any significant political sway. 

This follows trends in other countries housing a Pirate Party, including the UK, where the party only amassed 0.4 percent of the vote. However, while it may be some time before the Pirate Party worldwide gets any real support, it is often vocal about issues like free speech and piracy, which are topics that are receiving growing attention.

WikiLeaks has come under fire recently from a number of sides, including the Pentagon and several human rights organisations, over exposing the identities of US sympathisers in Afghanistan, which could put their lives at risk. While it has stated that it is not intimidated by the Pentagon and will go ahead with the publication of thousands more leaked documents, it is certain that it feels the pressure mounting and will be very welcoming of additional support by groups like the Swedish Pirate Party.

TalkTalk spies on customers

UK internet service provider TalkTalk has been caught spying on its users only a couple of weeks after it joined other ISPs in challenging the Digital Economy Act over privacy concerns.

The discovery was made by some TalkTalk customers, who noticed that IP addresses from Opal Telecom, a subsidiary of TalkTalk, were following every website they visited. Other users were then able to replicate the procedure and discover the stalking tactics in their logs.

After a series of complaints to TalkTalk, it revealed that it is developing “some really exciting new security and parental control services”, which it said would provide “greater protection” for its customers. Only, it doesn’t protect it from snooping ISPs.

The new monitoring system comes from the Chinese company Huawei. It follows users’ every move online, recording visited website URLs and comparing them to those which are known to contain malware. TalkTalk knows what sites you’re visiting within 30 seconds to 2 minutes, but it’s all to protect you. TalkTalk promises.

It said that users can opt out of the data mining operation if they want but it never told its users it was doing it in the first place, which limited the option to get rid until it was well and truly rumbled. The fact that it is not advertised anywhere and was only discovered by worried customers makes the whole affair that bit more shady.

In a time when ISPs, including TalkTalk itself, have been fighting against the Digital Economy Act, which may require the handing over of IP addresses of suspected illegal downloaders, this seems a tad hypocritical. TalkTalk doesn’t want outsiders asking it to monitor its users, but it has no problem doing it anyway without consent or knowledge.

TalkTalk has tried to allay fears by saying it only monitors and collects data of sites visited, but does not receive or store any details of who visited those sites. It said it is running a legitimate program for targeting malware and is “not interested in who has visited which site”. However, trust is important for any brand. We’ve a sneaking suspicion that customers will now also have sneaking suspicions. What other things could it be doing behind customers’ backs?

TalkTalk said that URLs it collects are deleted after 24 hours if they are found to be free from malware, while infected sites are checked and blocked on a daily basis until they are clean for seven days.

The malware blocker and parental controls system will come into force in the latter half of this year, which TalkTalk users can opt in for at no cost. It is unusual that the finished product requires an opt-in, while the testing of it requires an opt-out; perhaps TalkTalk might have better approached it by offering the trial as an opt-in as well.

It is not clear why TalkTalk decided to begin this testing phase with such a hush-hush attitude, but it is clear that its customers aren’t impressed, regardless of what it claims it’s doing it for.

BT, TalkTalk challenge Digital Economy Act

BT and TalkTalk have launched a legal challenge against the Digital Economy Act today.

The two major internet service providers are bringing the matter to the High Court in efforts to get a judicial review of the legality and fairness of the controversial Act.

The ISPs believe the Act was “rushed through” and told the BBC that it gives smaller ISPs an unfair advantage in the situation, since only providers with more 400,000 customers are subject to the rules. This will mean copyright infringers will simply leave the larger ISPs to avoid detection with the smaller unmonitored ones, BT and TalkTalk claimed.

The Act includes new requirements for ISPs to cut off the internet connections of suspected illegal downloaders after a three-strikes system of warnings, a hotly opposed suggestion that has already come into force in some other countries, including Ireland.

BT and TalkTalk have even gone so far as to say that the Act contradicts EU directives on the nature of ISPs, which state that they are not responsible for how people use the internet connections they provide. Indeed, no one blames an ISP or forces them to do something if someone plots a terrorist attack on a website, downloads child pornography, or performs some other illegal act online. 

Forcing ISPs to cut the internet connections of its customers amounts to getting them to shoot themselves in the foot, since it is dependant on providing those customers with an internet connection to survive as a business. This is the argument the ISPs are using against the Act.

TechEye spoke to Ofcom, the UK telecommunications regulator, about the BT and TalkTalk legal challenge. We asked if it would do anything to better accomodate the ISPs’ concerns and it said: “We have an open consultation on the proposed Code of Practice and we will continue to follow our plan for implementation unless otherwise advised by Government.” In other words, the plan goes full steam ahead unless Cameron steps in, which seems unlikely.

The Act itself is being brought in by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS). We spoke to a BIS spokesperson, who told us: “The Digital Economy Act sets out to protect our creative economy from the continued threat of online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs the creative industries, including creators, £400m per year. We believe measures are consistent with EU legislation and that there are enough safeguards in place to protect the rights of consumers and ISPs and will continue to work on implementing them.”

The Open Rights Group (ORG), however, strongly disagrees. It said: “News that TalkTalk and BT are challenging the Digital Economy Act in court is extremely welcome. It is a vindication of our view that the legislation should not have been rammed through parliament in the dying days of the last government.”

The ORG said that the government ignored the fact that “EU legislation requires that the Commission be given three months to ensure that ‘technical’ legislation complies with relevant EU laws.” It said that IP addresses have been identifed by the Information Comissioner as “personal data” and thus the identification of ISP subscribers on this basis constitutes an invasion of privacy.

If the BT and TalkTalk legal actions taken today are unsuccessful, they may bring the matter to the EU, since the Act appears to fundamentally contradict European laws.

ACS Law continues file share hunts

ACS Law, which likes to accuse people of file sharing and has allegedly sent out wrongful ISP piracy threat letters which requested settlement fees of up to £500, has been sending out “questionnaires” about illicit file sharing which respondents are under no legal obligation to answer.

The questionnaires, reports Which? Computing, ask alleged copyright infringers to give up their computers for forensic testing as well as confirming details about their internet connection and ISPs. They’re being sent out to people who have already denied any involvement in illegal file sharing.

It asks people to confirm that they are the owner of the internet connection, whether their wireless network is secured, and cheekily, if they have software such as BitTorrent on their PCs and if others in the household use the connection.

Head of legal affairs at Which?, Deborah Prince, reckons it’s all bully boy tactics and is morally unsound: “It is outrageous that ACS Law is effectively asking consumers to provide evidence to support claims ACS Law is making on its clients’ behalf, especially as recipients may not have legal representation. We believe its tactics are really underhand.”

The consumer magazine says ACS Law is being thoroughly out of order for requesting recipients submit to providing so-called evidence for cases against them when they’re not legally obliged to do so.

“We say this is another example of bullying behaviour by ACS Law, which says that if people don’t complete the questionnaire, it has no option but to consider them guilty and pursue the case in court. Declining to fill in a form is not evidence of guilt,” Deborah said.

The best tactic for anyone who receives a letter from ACS Law, says Which? Computing, is to restate their innocence and provide evidence which proves this – including giving details of being at work at the time and offering for it to be corroborated in a witness statement. Recipients should definitely say they don’t want to complete the questionnaire as it’s up to ACS Law to prove any client claims of file sharing, and that, again, there’s no legal obligation to fill out the form.

It seems one of ACS Law’s greedier clients is involved in the porn industry – the questionnaire came to light after a reader of Which? Computing told the law firm that he or she didn’t download 23 porno films, and were asked to pay £1,200 in compensation or face legal proceedings. 

ACS has previously had Which? point the finger for sending out wrongful ISP piracy threats.

UK limits illegal downloading proposals to large ISPs

A draft code of practice designed to eliminate illegal downloading has been published in the UK by Ofcom, but the proposals will only cover ISPs with over 400,000 customers.

SC Magazine reports that the code of practice is set to be included in the controversial Digital Economy Act 2010 and is expected to be in force by early 2011, provided it makes it past the long approval stages.

The 400,000 subscriber threshold means that small ISPs and mobile phony companies will not be subject to the new rules, but BT, Talk Talk, Virgin Media, Sky, Orange, O2, and the Post Office will.

This means that the big UK internet providers may have to cut the net connections of users found to be infringing on copyright, which is a topic of much contention at the moment. A similar model has already come into force in Ireland where the largest ISP has agreed to cut the broadband connections of suspected pirates after a series of warnings.

Ofcom is recommending a three strikes procedure of warnings, but also wants ISPs to keep an anonymous list of “serial infringers” which film, music, and software companies can then make onymous through a court order, effectively resulting in the ISPs handing over their customers in chains. Ofcom plans to bring in an appeals process, but not everyone is pleased with the proposals.

“This is another extremely rushed process, forced by the Digital Economy Act’s absurd timetables. There are huge unanswered questions, not least whether innocent people will have to pay to appeal,” said Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group. “The Government needs to draw a clear line between the notifications and potential disconnection regimes. Otherwise, Ofcom can’t tell people what these accusations mean, which is absurd.”

Canadian judge orders ISP to reveal Facebook bully identities

A Candadian judge has ruled that an ISP must hand over details of Facebook cyber bullies.

A number of people allegedly badmouthed a 15-year-old girl on a Facebook page and the girl’s parents took the matter to court in order to discover the identity of the bullies.  

The family’s lawyer, Michelle Award, tried to ensure that the girl’s identity would remain secret and that the defamatory comments made about her would not be revealed, but lawyers for a number of news agencies, including Halifax Chronicle Herald and Global TV, argued that embarassment is not justification enough for media agencies to not cover the story, which the judge, Justice Arthur LeBlanc, agreed with.

LeBlanc ordered the internet service provider Eastlink, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to hand over customer information of the person or people who created the Facebook page that caused all this trouble. Since the family has already proven that it is willing to go to court over the issue we assume that once they discover the identify of the bullies another court action will be taken against them.

The funny thing is that the girl probably just wanted the nasty comments removed from the web, but now they will be plastered all over Canadian television for an even wider audience.

O2 limits downloads for "unlimited" customers

O2 has told customers on its “unlimited downloads” tariff that they should aim to use less than 10GB per month.

The company, which in the past has been praised for it’s excellent internet service (take note Virgin) has put these restrictions and traffic management policies on the service of customers using its Home Access package.

The move follows O2’s scheme back in March where it started out sending letter to people it deemed as among the “heaviest users” on its Home Broadband Access service. It said those going over a limit (although it hasn’t specified what that is) could face disconnection unless their usage is reduced. It is also thought an unknown number of people have already been cut-off.

O2 said the new limits were designed to improve service for the majority of its Home Access customers. Its traffic management systems for non-bundled packages now also restrict P2P and newsgroup traffic to just 50Kbit/s at peak times – “typically the afternoon and evening”.

“All we’re doing is encouraging people to use peer to peer programs and newsgroups when there’s less traffic, to help our broadband flow better,” it said.

It also states in its traffic management page than users should stick to less than 10GB to avoid any issues. “Most O2 customers use less than 10GB a month. Aim for that and you’ll be okay,” the page says.

Irish ISP to cut off illegal downloaders at behest of record companies

Ireland’s largest broadband provider Eircom has announced that it will be cutting the broadband connections of illegal downloaders from today.

It has been a source of speculation for some time now, but Eircom has finally made an agreement with the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), which includes EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner, to implement a graduated system that will warn users who have been found to have illegally downloaded music from the internet.

TechEye spoke to Paul Bradley, Head of Communications at Eircom, who provided us with details of the new scheme.

Bradley told us that this is a pilot scheme that will be implemented to see what arises as a result of these new measures. After three months the scheme will be reviewed and changes will be made if deemed necessary.

We were informed that the system will work in four stages.

The first stage will involve a phone call and letter from Eircom informing the user that they have been found to have infringed on copyright and must cease doing so. Eircom says this initial contact will be friendly and aimed at informing people and working with them to bring about a positive resolution.

If the user continues to illegally download music the second stage will kick in, which involves a second warning letter, this time much more stern. It will warn the user that if they continue to breach music copyright then Eircom will be forced to disconnect their internet for a period of seven days.

If this warning is disregarded the third stage involves a third letter, which actually informs the user that their broadband has been cut off for seven days.

If that has not gotten through to the person and they repeat the crime when their internet comes back up then the fourth stage involves disconnecting their internet for a whole year.

We asked Bradley how Eircom identifies users who are illegally downloading, but he said that Eircom does not. He told us that the record industry users a third party group called Detectnet which identifies copyright infringers. Detectnet then contacts the IRMA and provides them with the relevant IP addresses, which the IRMA then forwards to Eircom to enact its tiered response.

Eircom will not monitor users’ activities and will not install any equipment or software on its network to identify illegal downloaders. It will also not provide any personal details of its users to the IRMA or Detectnet, which will prevent the latter from bringing any direct action against the users.

When asked what prompted this approach Bradley told us that Eircom was sued back in 2008 by the IRMA, but settled out of court with an agreement to bring in a graduated warning system that enables Eircom to work with its customers who are illegally downloading as opposed to simply punishing them from the outset.

Eircom plans to process 50 IP addresses a week, which is a relatively small portion of its over 750,000 broadband customers. The IRMA indicated it could easily give Eircom thousands of IP addresses a week, but that it was restricted by what the ISP could actually process.

We asked what happens when a user feels they are wrongly accused of illegally downloading. Bradley said this was one of the main reasons that prompted the graduated approach and that Eircom will call and discuss the issue with the customer to see where the problem is coming from.

Bradley told us that Eircom recognises that some users may not be aware that they are infringing on copyright, so Eircom’s approach will be to inform and educate. He also said that some users may not be properly securing their wireless connections, meaning that others could be tapping in and illegally downloading. Eircom will provide instructions for securing wireless connections to avoid similar issues arising. Eircom has also set up several pages on its website to provide information and tips for users who want to keep out of trouble.

We asked if Eircom believed other ISPs would follow suit and were informed that the IRMA has confirmed that two other Irish ISPs have made an agreement to start on a similar approach. The IRMA would not reveal which ones these were, but we were informed that UPC, formerly Chorus NTL, is due in court on June 10 with the IRMA. UPC believes there is no legal basis for ISPs to monitor or block net access. We were also told that many more ISPs are in negotiations to reach settlements.

Ireland is the first country in the world to implement this tiered approach, but if it is deemed successful here after the first three month trial there is no doubt that it will find its way into other countries, with thousands more people being disconnected for illegal file sharing.

There's no legal way to reveal anonymous comments

Israel’s top judges have decided that it is legally impossible find out the names of people who slag you off anonymously online.

Justice Eliezer Rivlin dismissed a petition and the procedure to reveal anonymous posters saying that it was all a cunning plan to force the justice system and a third party to conduct an inquiry for a civil suit.

He said that using the court in this way was not trivial and involves policy consideration and requires legislative regulation.

Basically his ruling means that until a procedure will be legislated, petitions to reveal anonymous users may not be granted.

It means that Israel’s politicians will have to draw up a law pretty sharpish, but Rivlin warned that they should be careful.

He said that shattering the ‘illusion of anonymity’ will raise associations of a “big brother”.

Other countries do not seem to have engaged in such navel gazing. Most places you can ask your ISP who has been slagging you off and get an answer. But at least in Israel, the court has thought deeply about the implications of doing that.