Join debate on future controls for internet

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

The internet is the root of all evil and must be controlled.

I am kidding of course. I love the internet and believe it is incredibly freeing, a vast repository of knowledge and a place where ideas can be shared and discussed in a truly global community.

Someone always has to spoil the fun though, don’t they? The internet also plays host to hoodlums and tricksters, ne’erdowells and thieves. You only have to log in to Windows and connect without anti virus software, or visit a website that has been hacked and you will soon learn.

Which is why you will have seen messages about cookies popping up all over the place. A while ago now, the EU decided cookies were potentially dangerous and not enough people understood what they were.

The simple version is this, a cookie is a small file that stores information when you visit a website. Usually they store things like preferences, to make your browsing experience better, or maybe they track links you have clicked on, to help webmasters analyse site performance. Sometimes they can be used illegally, storing passwords for later retrieval by unscrupulous criminals.

So the EU decided all websites that use cookies must have a disclaimer. Critics feel the ruling is unnecessary, unenforceable and the criminals will keep on doing what they do anyway.

More recently you will have heard about the EU ruling on an individual’s right to be forgotten. What this means is that you can make a request to be removed from search results. This does not mean the content you do not want found is removed, it just won’t show up in search results when using your name.

Critics of the ruling point out there is a tension between a person’s right to be forgotten and the public’s right to know.

What the EU ruling doesn’t do, is allow the judiciary to weigh the two sides and strike a balance. Instead the burden has been placed solely on the search engines’ shoulders. Google (being the largest search engine around) are taking steps to make better judgements and have formed an advisory council and need your input.

You can have your say by visiting

Now, over the last few days and due to be rushed through parliament, is a new piece of legislation that will ensure that phone and internet data must be stored by service providers for 12 months. This is to replace an EU law which was declared invalid earlier in the year.

The new law is so that law enforcement and security services can have access to your internet and telephone logs. Critics as you may expect, have much to say. Not the least is that the legislation is being rushed through parliament mere days before the summer recess and therefore cannot be discussed fully by the house.

The good news is that there are some protections being put into place, including a clause whereby the law will only last until 2016, so that a longer and more thorough debate may take place about what replaces it long term.

So where does this leave all of us? In a right old pickle.

Alan Stainer