Watch out, Dave’s on another one of his rants again! This time, about the Europe’s internet to suffer the same fate as China’s
So, lets get right to the point. In a recent E.U. meeting in February, it was suggested that to combat illegal activity overseas, that there should be, what they call, “virtual access points” to be able to filter suspicious websites at an ISP (Internet Service Provider) level.
8. CybercrimeThe Presidency of the LEWP presented its intention to propose concrete measures towards creatinga single secure European cyberspace with a certain “virtual Schengen border” and “virtual accesspoints” whereby the Internet Service Providers (ISP) would block illicit contents on the basis of theEU “black-list”. Delegations were also informed that a conference on cyber-crime would be held inBudapest on 12-13 April 2011.
This is basically a glorified way of saying “We want to pass every request you make to a service outside of the EU through a computer, and if it is in our blacklists we won’t allow you access”, and in theory, it sounds like a good idea. But in practice, will it work?
Well, for this, we’ll need to look at China, the home of “The Golden Shield Project”, more commonly known as “The Great Firewall of China”, where the Chinese people have great difficulty accessing sites outside of China, with sites such as the BBC and Voice of America. Other types of sites that are blocked in China include sites of a pornographic nature, criminal activity, as well as sites covering topics such as Democracy, Freedom of Speech and the Independence of Tibet.
Now don’t get me wrong, blocking criminal and (arguably) porn sites is theoretically a good idea, but is there really a need to impose an non-removable block on the whole continent‽ To be clear, sites that operate in the E.U. will remain unaffected if you are also accessing them in Europe!
A lot of the more tech savvy Chinese internet users have been bypassing this firewall by using various VPNs and Proxies, but this is way beyond the average user’s expertise.
The problem doesn’t just hit people in China, as the firewall works in both directions, and blocks the rest of the world from easily accessing sites hosted in China. When I used to be heavily active in the S1MP3 player testing and development team, I would often have to search Chinese websites for firmware for these players, and when the firewall was experiencing high amounts of traffic, it could take up to 15 minutes to even load a web page. Sometimes, Chinese websites weren’t accessible at all. Chinese sites who aim to attract a global audience, host their sites outside of China to avoid these issues.
How will this affect you? Many services we take for granted are hosted abroad, mainly in the USA. Google, Youtube, Facebook, these are all operated in the USA, having billions of Facebook users running through a firewall will put an awful load on said machine, and this firewall may also be used to track data passing through it. Yes, yet again, personal data is at stake!
If Europe was to do the same thing, it may be safe to say, the freedom we have on the internet will be severely restricted, and after seeing what has happened in China, I think most people will agree that the firewall is in no way a good idea!
The E.U. meeting summary can be read here.