Why fake handbags could mean your internet activity is monitoried

Back in 2007, L’Oreal and other luxury brands brought a court case against eBay because of fake goods being sold on the site. In many ways, the arguments were the same as those advanced in support of SOPA and PIPA – namely, that sites should take on a much greater policing role themselves, and be driven not by judicial action by complaints from the companies affected.

As we argued last week when we shut down our site in protest against the proposed US legislation, the draconian proposals for a blacklist of websites to be blocked would do little to combat the underlying problem, while in some areas actually making the internet more dangerous for consumers.

The public debate around that legislation saw 13m sign a petition and international media coverage. Yet there is a piece of legislation currently being discussed that has recieved barely a mention in the UK, containing much of the same proposals abandoned in the US. We’re talking about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

Not heard of it? Nor have most people. While the Australian Government is holding a consultation, there’s not been a peep out of the British Government, or the EU. The proposals it contains will encourage Internet Service Providers to spy on all the web activity of their customers to make sure they are not infringing copyright or selling fake goods. This highly intrusive surveillance will not require the authorisation of a judge or the oversight of an elected official.  Moreover, the proposals in the SOPA regulation to ‘blacklist’ and ‘disappear’ sites have been replicated in this treaty.

The proposals represent a clear and invasive violation of internet freedom and privacy norms. Instead of following the money and chasing those who actually host and distribute illegal content,  ACTA seeks to intrude into the lives of millions of everyday web users and clamp down on the internet as a vibrant, open means of communication and creation.

We’re writing to Business Secretary Vince Cable to ask he makes public the UK’s input into the EU’s negotiations and to MEPs asking them why so little public discussion has taken place.