One of the great debates of the internet age is that of ISP responsibility, and it’s one I’ve had beefs with for a while, for a very simple reason, and to demonstrate, I’ll simply expand upon the acronym.
I.S.P = Internet Service Provider
You’ll note that this is not, in fact, I.U.R , or Internet Usage Regulator.
Put simply, ISP’s provide us, the user, a service – connection to the internet. Our actions, the sites we visit, the content we download and the mistakes we make are our own, and it continues to astound me that both the media and government seem to think it should be otherwise.
Take the ‘ISP’s should be responsible for illegal downloading of copyrighted material’ debate for example. It’s one that’s been kicked around for quite some time, and AFACT are even taking action against ISP iiNet with a view to concrete this onus of responsibility in law
To this, I have two simple responses – why did the studios never take TV and radio stations to court, knowing full well how many mix tapes or blockbuster movies were being illegally recorded?
Yeah – take that.
Secondly, an analogy. To me, trying to hold ISP’s accountable for the actions of their customers is like holding roadworkers (or more accurately the government that employs them) responsible for the speeding or drink driving of the motorists who then take to those roads : It just doesn’t make any sense!
Now, a new (optional) policy has been suggested to ISP’s by the IIA that suggests they detect users with malicious content on their PC’s and contact these customers with ‘anti-malware’ advice, or even disconnect the customers service until the problem is resolved.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for ISP’s helping the end user out, but I think there are a few issues here.
1. The average end user in Australia isn’t exactly ‘malware literate’ Check out these alarming phishing figures to see what I mean
2. How prepared are ISP’s to cut off x percent of their customer base, simply because they’re not ‘scam savvy’?
3. How exactly, when the customer is no longer connected to the internet, is an ISP supposed to confirm that a customers malware problem is resolved? Do they take a photo of their ‘No virus found’ notification and post it in the mail?
These two issues for me more or less boil down to the same thing – ISP’s are exactly that, and until we start taking governments to court for illegal road usage, or AFACT want to take up cases with every Radio and TV station on the planet for breach of copyright,let’s stop trying to make them something they’re not.
Disclosure: I am in fact an employee of ISP/Telco Telstra – the opinion above is my own, and not that of my employer. For a little more spunk on the issue of ‘disclaimerment’, see my General Disclaimer