The Republic of Austria promptly responded to censure of it by the EU in July 2010 and amended the data protection rules in effect in this country accordingly. Specifically, this has to do with data retention—i.e. legal regulations mandating storage of data propagated via telecommunications channels due to the possibility that they could contain illegal material or even have been employed for purposes of terrorism. It is foreseeable that this law—despite massive protests—will take effect in April 2012, and could very well trigger a paradigm shift in the use of the internet. But it’s not too late to take action! The citizens’ initiative zeichnemit.at has mobilized considerable support and succeeded in convincing Parliament to reconsider this legislation. Probably due to many people’s increased wariness of invasion of their private sphere, of surveillance and of firms maintaining records of individuals’ communications, this initiative has been able to motivate significantly more citizens to speak out than was the case, for example, in 2009 in Germany. Hopefully, this was not just a cosmetic victory.
Data retention must also be viewed with alarm in connection with ACTA, a multilateral agreement among, currently, 38 states including the EU. It pursues pretty much the same agenda that SOPA does. ACTA is an effort to achieve “better” control over copyright infringement, but the way it’s formulated at present would result in significant curtailment of the private sphere of citizens. Information about ACTA isn’t as easy to obtain as is the case with SOPA/PIPA but, here as well, international initiatives have already formed. It would behoove all those who aren’t utterly indifferent to incursions into their private sphere to get informed and to speak out in no uncertain terms! After all—even if you have nothing to hide, this trend is a source of tremendous concern.
On January 24th 2012 various governmental websites all over Europa were “attacked” by Anonymous, an “organisation” which will talk about soon, in protest against ACTA.