Net Nanny, the Digital Economy Bill and Moving to Brazil

On Monday, Panorama (BBC current affairs programme) screened an interesting show on the new legislation for Internet policing and anti copyright theft known as the Digital Economy Bill. Keith Cottenden of CY4OR (forensics firm in the UK) (www.cy4or.co.uk) was interviewed and talked about the pitfalls that UK citizens now face when doing innocuous things such as making copies of their CDs (maybe for your kids) or using file-sharing networks. You can see an overview of Keith’s top tips for protecting yourself at http://news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_8560000/8560996.stm

One interesting point to bear in mind is that the culpable party in the event of someone contravening the Digital Economy Bill is actually the owner of the Internet connection – i.e. the bill payer. This means that when your kids are busy downloading movies or music from their favorite file-sharing site, using the laptop they keep tucked away in their bedroom, it’s actually the adult that pays the bill that will be facing the large fine or criminal charges. Not knowing what your kids are up to is not an excuse!

I think, as a result of this Bill, we’ll see a rise in the use of the ‘Net Nanny’ style of desktop products and it will only take a couple of well publicised cases I the media to really get the population into a mass panic. But what can you do about it?

Windows has a fairly good monitoring and control capability (from Vista onwards it was very good) so that should be your first port of call. However, most people use the administrator account on their computers, so it’s going to be tough for parents to remove their kids’ privileges from the computers that they previously had full control over. And without demoting them to a standard User account, they can simply turn the Parental Controls off if they don’t like what they are doing. The alternative is to put something in the way that blocks access to file sharing sites. Maybe a firewall that both monitors and blocks access, where you can also inspect the ‘surfing’ logs of anyone using the Internet to see what they’ve been up to. However, not many people have the time, recourses or competence to do this, so it’s really not a good solution.

I suppose time will tell when it comes to what the best solution is and it’s like many things, partly about the technology and partly about education. Will Internet users even read the Bill to know what they can and can’t do? I sincerely doubt it.

So, my advice is, if you are an investor in tech companies, find the best parental control company around and take a few shares into your portfolio. Then when the 8£&^ hits the fan and the panic buying sets in, you can cash out and move somewhere less restrictive, like Brazil.

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