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Wired news article: Did UK Internet Firms Aid Cops?

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Date:          Tue, 2 Feb 1999 17:38:39 GMT0BST
From:          "Yaman Akdeniz" <>
Subject:       Wired news article: Did UK Internet Firms Aid Cops?

Did UK Internet Firms Aid Cops?
by Alan Docherty 

>From Wired News, 2.February, 1999

LONDON -- An online free speech advocacy group here obtained new evidence Monday that the nation's Internet service provider industry association has given secret interviews to law enforcement and advised them on access to personal emails.

Yaman Akdeniz, director of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) said in a statement that the industry group, the Internet Service Provider Association of the UK (ISPA), now "runs the risk of becoming the Big Brother Providers Association."

The group represents 90 percent of all dial-up Internet companies in Britain.

According to Akdeniz, the association furnished the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) with a report about the type of information stored by Internet service providers, how long the information could be stored, and how it could be accessed.

A disgruntled member of the ISPA leaked the police briefing report -- `Industry Capabilities of Information' -- to Akdeniz last year. The report follows accusations from several civil liberties organizations of secret deals between the police and ISPA.

Akdeniz said that the incident is only the latest in a series of incidents that the self-regulation group such as the ISPA -- an industry group charged with regulating and policing the Net -- has been accused of secrecy and subterfuge.

Last August, the group Internet Freedom reported that Internet service providers were attempting to reach private arrangements with police. Last August, Computing magazine reported that police were close to reaching a `memorandum of understanding' with Internet service providers that could enable officers across the country to read an individual's email.

In response to this latest report, the trade group London Internet Exchange and the regulatory body Internet Watch Foundation issued an official denial that such talks had ever taken place.

In January of this year, unsatisfied with how the ISPA was handling approaches from the police, Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) encouraged its supporters to send a pro forma letter to their Internet service providers. Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the ISPA, advised ISPs to ignore the letters.

Lansman then denied his comments to several journalists before finally admitting "the words had been used." Lansman's deception did little to convince Net users that ISPA could be trusted.

Tim Pearson, chair of ISPA, claims that reports of the talks between the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Internet industry were overstated.

Pearson said the latest report was simply a briefing document outlining the workings of the industry for the police. ISPA's current advice is that emails can only be handed over once a court order had been obtained.

Free speech organizations say that the report points to a lack of accountability in the self-regulatory industry. Organizations such as the ISPA are accountable only to their members, work to their own guidelines and policies, and have resisted calls for increased public accountability.

"For months, ISPA and the IWF have been denying that any secret deals were in the making, despite indications to the contrary," said Chris Ellison, founder of Internet Freedom.

"Finally we have concrete evidence that ISPA has been collaborating with the police and misleading the public. It's about time they came clean".

Akdeniz agrees about the lack of accountability.

"The Association of Chief Police Officers ... has no statutory basis. ACPO is a body set up by chief police officers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Yaman Akdeniz <> Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) at:

Read the new CR&CL (UK) Report, Who Watches the Watchmen, Part:II Accountability & Effective Self-Regulation in the Information Age, August 1998 at ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~