Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales attacks government’s ‘snooper’s charter’

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, has described the government’s ‘snooper’s charter’ as ‘technologically incompetent’. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

(The Guardian) – Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has sharply criticised the government’s “snooper’s charter”, designed to track internet, text and email use of all British citizens, as “technologically incompetent”.

He said Wikipedia would move to encrypt all its connections with Britain if UK internet companies, such as Vodafone and Virgin Media, were mandated by the government to keep track of every single page accessed by UK citizens.

The entrepreneur said he was confident there would be a general move to encryption across the internet if British-based communication service providers were required to collect and store data for 12 months from overseas companies, such as Google and Facebook, for possible access by the police and security services.

He said the British government would have to resort to the “black arts” of hacking to break encryptions: “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,” he told MPs and peers.

His intervention came as leading UK internet companies, including Vodafone and Virgin Media, also raised concerns about the responsibility for retaining and storing sensitive data from overseas third-party companies, which, they said, would damage their commercial relationships and entail a competitive disadvantage.

The internet industry, which is giving evidence to a parliamentary special select committee on the draft communications data bill, said the legislation could create new opportunities for hackers and “malicious agents” wanting sensitive private information about individuals.

The London Internet Exchange (Linx), told MPs it had serious concerns that the proposals would create a “profiling engine”, a filtering system that would produce detailed profiles on all users of electronic communications systems and allow sophisticated data mining.

In a written submission Linx said it would be a challenge to safeguard this profiling engine, and that a breach would be “a significant threat to national security”.

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