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Jimmy Wales says Wikipedia would use encryption to skirt UK data collection bill

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Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told The Telgraph that if the UK's controversial Communications Data Bill were passed, Wikipedia would likely use encryption to get around the ISPs' data retention. He stated that while the online encyclopedia doesn't encrypt transmissions now, it would be simple to implement.

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jimmy wales (flickr)
jimmy wales (flickr)

While Conservative MP Theresa May’s draft Communications Data Bill would require ISPs in the UK to store the contents of users’ online communications, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales sees an easy way around the controversial proposal. If the bill somehow gets passed, he’s "almost certain" the online encyclopedia would begin encrypting all communication to the UK "so that the local ISP would only be able to see that you are speaking to Wikipedia, not what you are reading," he told The Telegraph. "We don’t do it today because there doesn’t seem to be a dramatic need for it or any dramatic threat to our customers, but it’s something that I think we would do, absolutely," he explained.

If passed, the bill would require ISPs to retain users’ communications data for up to 12 months, ostensibly to provide law enforcement with an easier way to get hold of digital communications between members of organized crime organizations. But critics say that the most sophisticated criminals would be able to easily encrypt their transmissions, again circumventing law enforcement, and leaving ordinary citizens as effectively the only ones whose emails and social media interactions would be monitored.

"You have to sieve everything"

Supporters point out that the proposed legislation would only allow the government to see who is talking to who, requiring law enforcement to get a warrant to actually obtain the content of the communications. But as Jim Killock of Open Rights Group stated to Parliament in July, it isn’t so easy to separate communications data (the who and where) from the content of the communication, noting "you have to sieve everything."