If you're in the UK, you'd better be sure to stay in line when you're on the web. The British government's new cyber-security strategy introduces an increased use of 'cyber-sanctions,' which will allow the government to ban cyber-criminals from the web, ZDNet reports.
The bans will use 'cyber-tags' to alert law enforcement if the offender tries to breach the conditions that have been put on their internet use, as detailed in section 4.28 of the UK Cyber Security Strategy:
4.28 In addition, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office will consider and scope the development of a new way of enforcing these orders, using ‘cyber-tags’ which are triggered by the offender breaching the conditions that have been put on their Internet use, and which will automatically inform the police or probation service. If the approach shows promise we will look at expanding cyber-sanctions to a wider group of offenders.
Members of LulzSec and Anonymous who are awaiting trial in the UK have landed similar restrictions. This time, the bans will be imposed on a far wider audience than destructive pranksters, activists and hardened criminals. Getting caught illegally downloading music and movies will also get you locked out of the web, along with cyber-bullying and phishing, as highlighted in section 4.5.
Despite statements to the contrary, the British government has a somewhat shaky history with digital rights and internet censorship. Back in August, prime minister David Cameron considered cutting off access to social networks in the face of rioting across the UK. A study by the security firm Unisys actually found that 70% of respondents thought that it would be okay to shut down social media in the face of a crisis, as reported by Mashable.
Since Britain has no firm laws protecting freedom of speech or expression, the government has more free reign when it comes to interpreting exactly what those rights mean and how far they go. Still, David Cameron had rather we didn't worry; last month he said that, “governments must not use cyber security as an excuse for censorship.”
We really hope that he sticks to that. Shutting down individual websites is bad enough – shutting down the web is worse. But what about banning criminals? Is it a logical extension of 'real world' probation laws, or is it censorship? Tell us what you think.