US Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton has attacked the tactics of the music antipiracy lobby, saying that those who ride roughshod over privacy in the hunt for pirates occupy the same moral ground as those they seek to have jailed.
Addressing the 11th Biennial Copyright Law and Practice Symposium, Crompton warned a dangerous "asymmetry" between "vigorous protection of intellectual and vigorous invasion of personal information" now existed.
"One of the things that is potentially happening here, and around the world, is that if you want to go after one person for their alleged misuse or wrongful distribution of IP, what (copyright holders) do is that they manage to get hold of all the log files of an ISP or server.
"This has the potential to invade the privacy not of the person being chased, but of all the people that have ever used that ISP. (It's) not appropriate, it's a sledge hammer to crack a walnut," Crompton said.
While stopping short of demanding jail terms for premeditated or systemic invasions of privacy by commercial interests, Crompton said that it was in the public interest to make sure "the cure is not worse than the disease."
"I challenge both the digital industry and software pirates to recognise that Digital Rights Management includes both the right of protection for Intellectual Property (IP) and the right of protection for personal information (PI)," Crompton said.
The Privacy Commissioner also cautioned defenders of defend intellectual property rights must demonstrate transparency as to the way personal information is collected by commercial interests.
"DRM technologies allow very fine-grained customer profiling (and must) allow individuals the choice of not participating. This includes the need for new technologies to be consciously designed as privacy enhancing technologies that prevent accumulation of such data for this kind of secondary purpose," Crompton said.
The Commissioner noted Microsoft's Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) was "at the crossroads" in terms of building privacy into technology.
"NGSCB has great privacy enhancing potential, and deployments by developers, not just Microsoft will be the real test. Microsoft has recognised there is a privacy issue in here, that privacy can be got right and in that sense we should all work with them, give them the benefit of the doubt and urge them to do the right thing because they recognise the right thing needs to be done" Crompton said.
A spokesperson for Microsoft said the company would need to examine the Commissioner's musings in their full context prior to making a comment.
The Australian Recording Industry Association said it was still without a media spokesperson, thus unable to comment at time of publication.