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The DEA and our online privacy

Blog post from London School of Economics & Political Science
Publication Date
  • Hn Social History And Conditions. Social Problems. Social Reform
  • K Law (General)
  • Qa75 Electronic Computers. Computer Science
  • T Technology (General)
  • Law
  • Political Science


The DEA and our online privacy The DEA and our online privacy By Bart Cammaerts and Bingchun Meng Just as wiretapping is considered a threat to civil liberties in most democratic countries, the large-scale online surveillance that the Digital Economy Act authorises will be perceived as a threat to users’ privacy. Given such perceptions, there are likely to be two kinds of reactions. One is that users will seek technological means to protect their online privacy, such as using IP–filtering software or sending encrypted files. This could result in an “arms race” between surveillance attempts and anti-surveillance tactics. The second possible reaction is that once users lose trust in the online environment or become confused about the legality of their behaviour, they will retreat from their regular and often essential online activities, impeding the functioning of their daily life. Both reactions will lead to total welfare loss, yet none of these have been taken into account by the DEA (Mansell and Steinmueller, 2010). In addition, the complexity of monitoring online behaviour also means that users might become the frequent victims of wrong accusations. In order to identify heavy infringers, the DEA adopts a fundamentally flawed method of matching P2P traffic with IP addresses. In any given household one IP address can be shared by several individual users, not to mention the difficulty of identifying infringers on community WIFI or public access points such as schools and libraries. Already there has been the case of an innocent couple being threatened by a law firm for distributing a video game online, even though the couple had neither WiFi in their home nor did they play computer games (Sabbagh, 2010). This problem will certainly exacerbate once the Act takes effect. Finally, there is also a more fundamental issue at play here. Namely, is it acceptable that an administrative body can order citizen

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