Is the UK Stupid? Well, Maybe, But Government Officials Have Identified Some Targets

February 27, 2023

I live in good, old Kentucky, rural Kentucky, according to my deceased father-in-law. I am not an Anglophile. The country kicked my ancestors out in 1575 for not going with the flow. Nevertheless, I am reluctant to slap “even more stupid” on ideas generated by those who draft regulations. A number of experts get involved. Data are collected. Opinions are gathered from government sources and others. The result is a proposal to address a problem.

The write up “UK Proposes Even More Stupid Ideas for Directly Regulating the Internet, Service Providers” makes clear that governments have not been particularly successful with its most recent ideas for updating the UK’s 1990 Computer Misuse Act. The reasons offered are good; for example, reducing cyber crime and conducting investigations. The downside of the ideas is that governments make mistakes. Governmental powers creep outward over time; that is, government becomes more invasive.

The article highlights the suggested changes that the people drafting the modifications suggest:

  1. Seize domains and Internet Protocol addresses
  2. Use of contractors for this process
  3. Restrict algorithm-manufactured domain names
  4. Ability to go after the registrar and the entity registering the domain name
  5. Making these capabilities available to other government entities
  6. A court review
  7. Mandatory data retention
  8. Redefining copying data as theft
  9. Expanded investigatory activities.

I am not a lawyer, but these proposals are troubling.

I want to point out that whoever drafted the proposal is like a tracking dog with an okay nose. Based on our research for an upcoming lecture to some US government officials, it is clear that domain name registries warrant additional scrutiny. We have identified certain ISPs as active enablers of bad actors because there is no effective oversight on these commercial and sometimes non-governmental organizations or non-profit “do good” entities. We have identified transnational telecommunications and service providers who turn a blind eye to the actions of other enterprises in the “chain” which enables Internet access.

The UK proposal seems interesting and a launch point for discussion, the tracking dog has focused attention on one of the “shadow” activities enabled by lax regulators. Hopefully more scrutiny will be directed at the complicated and essentially Wild West populated by enablers of criminal activity like human trafficking, weapons sales, contraband and controlled substance marketplaces, domain name fraud, malware distribution, and similar activities.

At least a tracking dog is heading along what might be an interesting path to explore.

Stephen E Arnold, February 27, 2023


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