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EuroISPA slams French Net privacy plans

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The French Parliament could force Web page owners to register their personal details in a bid to improve accountability on the Net. The proposal was parachuted into the second reading of a new law set before the lower house of the French Parliament last week as part of a freedom of communications bill. However, the bill does not specify that it affects only Web pages. The fear is that it could also include anyone who writes anything on a message board or chat room. Although the idea of being able to trace who is behind Web sites has its supporters, industry body EuroISPA fears it could be the thin end of an extremely divisive wedge. A spokesman said: "This has got tremendous scope for going wrong." In particular, EuroISPA is concerned that the proposal was introduced without any industry consultation. And while ISPs will not be required to police the new system, there is nothing in the bill to limit liability of ISPs for policing, nor any guarantee that ISP will not have policing duties imposed on them in the future. EuroISPA president Cormac Callanan said: "ISPs are at the forefront of the fight against illegal content on the Web - actively participating in the setting up of hotlines and 'notice and takedown' procedures. "Given the French ISP industry’s exemplary record in this regard, it is particularly disappointing that their government appears bent on disadvantaging them in this way," he said. Those who fail to register their details - or who give incorrect details - risk up to six months in prison or E7000 (£4250) in fines. French consumers using hosting services abroad would not be required to undertake this potentially cumbersome procedure. Ironically, if the new law is introduced later this year without amendment it may backfire on the legislators. For it could force French Web authors to set up shop outside the country and make it impossible for French plaintiffs and judges to obtain information without international co-operation. ®

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