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Government wants mediation service for web takedowns

by Sarah Griffiths on 2 November 2010, 10:59

Tags: Facebook, UK Government

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A tangled web

The government has backed the idea of rolling out a mediation service to deal with data disputes and personal information held about individuals online.

During a debate on privacy and the internet, the business minister, Ed Vaizey brought up the idea of a mediation service to make it easier for individuals to change data that is inaccurate or any that encroaches on their privacy, hinting that ISPs and major websites might have to help.

"I intend to write to the major ISPs and websites, such as Google and Facebook, asking for a meeting. I want to discuss with them not just the general issue of people being aware of what data they may inadvertently be making available online, but the opportunity for redress," he said.

However, the BBC has reported that some ISPs are not too keen on the idea, worried they could face a substantial burden that might be difficult to enforce.

In the debate, Vaizey referred to a women's refuge being captured on Google Street View, where efforts to get the information and picture removed proved futile. He said the lack of dialogue between the two parties ‘worries him greatly' and suggested the UK's net registry, Nominet which already runs a mediation service, might be able to help.

A spokesman for the department for Business, innovation and Skills, told the broadcaster: "We are keen to explore ideas for how we can work together with industry to improve the customer experience around complaints and problems with service as well as other on-line issues, including a mediation service."

According to Auntie, the UK's Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) maintened there are already plenty of routes available for people to make complaints if they feel their data is being handled badly, including a system of ‘notice and takedown' offered by UK ISPs where sites are notified about illegal content so they can remove it pronto.

A spokesperson told the BBC: "ISPA is concerned about the potential for any additional burden on ISPs and questions, for example, how a mediation service would work with content hosted outside the UK. ISPA will be talking to Government about the work that ISPs already do in this area and commenting in more detail when further information is announced."

Interestingly, Jim Killock, chair of the Open Rights Group has not immediately sided with the government and reportedly said: "What we need to hear is that the government is committed to strong data protection rules, rather than suggesting off the cuff ideas."