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Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales Is Ready To Fight Snooper’s Charter

Wikipedia could encrypt all connections to the UK

On by Max Smolaks 2

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has spoken out against the Draft Communications Bill, the UK government plans to monitor and store all digital communications, dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter”.

In case Draft Communications Data Bill becomes the law, the US entrepreneur has promised to encrypt all connections between Wikipedia servers and the UK, effectively reducing the government’s ability to snoop on use of Wikipedia. Wales was speaking to a  joint committee tasked with scrutinising the proposed Communications Bill before it is debated in the House of Commons.

Jimbo says “no”

Plans to write a draft bill for the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ were first announced during the Queen’s Speech in May.

© Wikimedia FoundationThe bill proposes recording and storing all communications data, while ignoring content, so that police and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) can use information about who contacts whom over the Internet, without a warrant. Current regulations require law enforcement agencies to gain permission before getting hold of communications data.

The Draft Bill has seen opposition from MPs, businesses, privacy groups and those concerned about the cost of implementing the proposed law in a recession.

Home Office ministers and home secretary Theresa May have defended the Bill, saying it was designed to help protect UK citizens. But on Wednesday, Wales told the select committee which was scrutinising the Draft Bill, that the plans are “technologically incompetent”, and explained that it would be very simple for Wikipedia to avoid monitoring through encryption.

He had also warned that the plans to collect lists of all web pages visited by Internet users will result in more connections being encrypted. This, in turn, would force the government to employ hordes of hackers to break the encryption, in an escalating cycle of cyber-espionage.

“It is not the sort of thing I’d expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the Internet industry,” Wales told MPs and peers, reports The Guardian.

Communications Bill blasted

Vodaphone and Virgin Media have also recently criticised the government plans, saying it would put UK companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Adopting “Snooper’s Charter” would result in huge quantities of user data stored by ISPs for at least 12 months. According to the London Internet Exchange (LINX), a non-profit organisation giving evidence to the joint committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill, this information could be used to create a dangerous “profiling engine”.

Such engine could provide the state with detailed information on all Internet users, while infringing on citizens’ right to privacy. LINX says that if this kind of database would become a victim of a hacker attack, it would amount to “a significant threat to national security”.

While speaking at the launch of World Wide Web Index on Wednesday, the inventor of the Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said that it is important that “everybody fights” if the governments decide to turn the Internet into a centralised and controlled system.

You can read our story describing the Five Major Tech Issues Facing Snooper’s Charter.

Can you look after your personal data online? Take our quiz!

Max Smolaks
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2 replies to Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales Is Ready To Fight Snooper’s Charter

  • On September 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm by Phil

    No no no…

    When this kind of database becomes a victim of a hacker attack, it will amount to a significant threat to national security.

  • On September 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm by Adam Gibson

    “explained that it would be very simple for Wikipedia to avoid monitoring through encryption.”

    But… if the governments have access to the CA certificate authorities it would be possible for the UK to spoof their own certificates to perform man in them middle attacks for snooping all traffic. Users could figure that out though if they compare what certificate is given to them compared to users in other countries though.

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