The UK is fast becoming the most authoritarian big brother police state in the ‘free world’. The GCHQ spying program was described by Edward Snowden as ‘worse than the US’ when it comes to blanket surveillance, not only of its own citizens, but of all data that flowing through the fiber-optic trunk cables that pass into and out of the UK.
It is not just GCHQ however. The newly introduced ‘on by default’ porn filters not only screen out a lot more than a bit of naughtiness the kids shouldn’t see, but are widely seen among privacy activists as the first salvo in an attempt to soften up the British public for greater ‘hard’ censorship.
The police too have been on an anti-piracy crusade that makes UK citizens subject to more website blocks than anyone else in the Western world, and they have now gone one crucial step further – on August 6 the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), citing suspected copyright piracy crimes, shut down Immunicity, a general proxy server that was set up as a censorship circumvention tool.
As with other similar services, Immunicity can route users’ internet traffic through the Immunicity proxy server in order to mask their true IP address’ (thereby performing a similar if less effective function as VPN or Tor). It should be stressed that such a proxy service is simply a tool, and no illegal content was either hosted or linked to on the Immunicity website.
Now it is probably true that many Immunicity visitors used the service to pirate copyrighted material, but just because some people use hammers to murder people does not mean we should ban all hammers! Proxy servers are simply tools, often used for ‘good’ reasons such as bypassing government censorship, and so it should not be blamed for the actions of its users.
TorrentFreak reports that,
‘In addition in (sic) Immunicity the Pirate Bay proxy Piratereverse.info and KickassTorrents proxies Kickassunblock.info and Katunblock.com were taken down as well. The same happened with movie2kproxy.com, h33tunblock.info and several other sites. The DNS entries of the domains have all been replaced and now point at a PIPCU IP-address which displays a warning banner.’
No court orders have been obtained, but PIPCU stated that the domain registrars suspended the IP addresses after being asked to cooperate by the police,
‘The owners of the aforementioned domains are suspected to be involved in the criminal distribution of copyrighted material either directly or indirectly and are liable to prosecution under UK law for the following offences: Conspiracy to Defraud, Offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988.
Should a conviction be brought for the above offences, UK courts may impose sentences of imprisonment and/or fines. PIPCU has criminal and civil powers in UK law to seize money, belongings and any property in connection with these offences.’
The City of London Police have no legal authority to demand such domain name seizures, but it seems that an authoritative looking letterhead is enough to make registers simply turn round and bend over…
UPDATE: Later on the 6th of August TorrentFreak reported that the owner of Immunicty was arrested by UK police. We believe this is the first time the courts will have to decide if operating a proxy service that unblocks torrenting is an offence. TorrentFreak believes this is unlikely as the site weren’t being operated for profit.