Media Picks-Up Internet Surveillance Issue

click to read the newsThis is a follow-up of my blog yesterday about the round table discussion we had on the subject of Internet surveillance and social controls. I will not discuss yet about online gaming as mentioned at the end of that blog instead I would like to acknowledge some very favorable responses to I-Café Pilipinas stand on the issue of web filtering at ISP level. I  am referring to a provision on the soon-to-become law about Anti-Child Pornography where Internet service providers are tasked to do the filtering of unwanted sites which aside from the possible technical problem of network degradation could also result in intrusion to privacy and surveillance of individuals and groups.

The news item, ‘Social control’ better than legislation, authored by Alexander Villafania of INQUIRER.net , a participant in the round table discussion, aptly describes the issues discussed about Internet surveillance and its would-be effect if the objectionable provision of the soon-to-become law is not deleted. Let me quote some portions of the online news as posted by Mr. Villafania.

A Senate version of the Anti-Child Porn Bill, Senate Bill 2317, was penned by Senators Jamby Madrigal and Francis Escudero and is only awaiting a conference committee reading before going into plenary. However, one particular provision of the bill has raised eyebrows as it hints on government control over the Internet.

Section 8 of the said Senate bill requires all Internet service providers (ISPs) to place filtering software to prevent access to online pornographic material, especially those that involve children.

The bill claims that it does not want the ISPs to do monitoring but it requires them to report to the Philippine National Police (NBI) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) all incidences of alleged child pornography among its customers.

The stand of I-Café Pilipinas on the issue of web filtering at ISP level was mentioned in the news as follows:

Filtering laws degrading Internet service

This was the basis for arguments from a group of Internet café owners who said that filtering should not be done on the ISP level but on the Internet shop operator and even have the computer user take part in watching out against child pornography.

In fact, i-Café Pilipinas Co-Convenors Edgardo Zafra and Gener Luis Morada said Internet shops area already following strict guidelines set by some local government units against the use of their computers for deviant means, including pornography.

The issue of intrusion into one’s privacy was also expressed during the discussion and was reported in the news as follows:

Threat to online privacy

More than anything else, the said bill by Senator Madrigal also opens a can of worms, according to Winthrop Yu, a director for the Philippine Internet Commerce Society (PICS) who also spoke at the DLSU forum.

He stressed that if passed with the specific section on ISPs unrevised, the Anti-Child Pornography Bill could become a control mechanism for governments to look into private records of ISP clients, with the premise that the government is merely looking into alleged child pornography.

“That makes ISPs liable for alleged child pornography, which could stifle their business,” Yu said.

The news report is the first of two parts about the issue of Internet surveillance and social control. I am eagerly waiting for the conclusive part of the article.

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