Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)|
4 MARCH 2008
Q120 Rosemary McKenna: Do you think
schools are doing enough?
Mr MacLeod: They are starting
to. The evidence I saw with my own eyes yesterday tells me that
they are doing dedicated lessons for Internet-type issues. The
right messages are getting through. Perhaps they could do more,
perhaps that might be a possibility, but I get the impression
that there is definitely progress in that area.
Ms Kramer: When children go to
school at the age of four/five they will have IS lessons; hand-in-hand
with that, schools could give them advice about how to use the
Internet responsibly rather than waiting a couple of years.
Q121 Rosemary McKenna: That is right
and there comes a stage where children have to be exposed to risk
of some kind; overprotection is not going to be a good thing.
They have to learn how to do that and it is a balance between
whether it is school and home or the providers who actually do
that. Someone suggested last week that maybe we should provide
equipment without cameras. Do you think that would work, that
parents should be able to buy a mobile phone without a camera?
Mr MacLeod: You can. They are
on the market. They are not very popular any longer.
Q122 Mr Sanders: It is very difficult
to buy one; very difficult indeed.
Ms Church: Children would not
be happy with a phone which was not the same as the one all their
Mr MacLeod: We should also take
some of the positives from the use of cameras. I heard the Director-General
of the BBC the other day saying that when there is a breaking
news story people want to see this first-hand eye-witness stuff.
They do not want to see the film coming in from his cameraman
which has been sent down two hours after the event.
Q123 Chairman: Would you like, therefore,
to comment on the story which is leading Sky News this morning
which is the woman who was gang-raped and those who carried out
the crime filmed it, presumably on a mobile telephone, and uploaded
it to YouTube where it was then seen by 600 people before YouTube
Mr MacLeod: There is absolutely
no question about it, that that was absolutely sickening and contemptible.
The only way we are going to prevent this is if we pre-screen
everything that gets published on the Internet. Clearly that is
not really going to be a very practical answer. YouTube, I believe,
has something like 10 hours of video going up every minute. Two
things have to happen: obviously the provider has to remove the
content absolutely instantaneously and, secondly, the people who
perpetrated this have to feel the full force of the law.
Q124 Chairman: This is probably more
a question for YouTube than you, but is there any way in which
it is possible to identify the number from which content of that
kind was uploaded?
Mr MacLeod: You are right; it
is probably more a question for YouTube.
Q125 Chairman: But is there anything
you do in terms of working with the police in this area?
Ms Church: We do work with the
police. Under the RIPA Act, if the police came to us and made
a request for data that we hold, then we would of course release
Q126 Mr Sanders: Would it be technically
possible within a telephone that has a camera for some code to
identify that telephone that was used to film that content?
Mr MacLeod: It depends how it
Mr Bartholomew: It depends how
the individual uploaded the video or the photo. If they sent the
content over the mobile-phone network perhaps to a short code,
to a number, they sent a media message in the same way you send
a text message, it should be possible to trace it back to the
handset. If, however, they just used the mobile phone as a cheap
video camera, they took the image and then they connected the
phone to a computer using the USB cable or transferred the images
in infra-red, if they came nowhere near the mobile network, then
there would not be that trace and you would not be able to link
the handset. I would imagine you would not be able to link the
handset back to the user.
Ms Church: That would fall to
the ISP then to step in.
Q127 Chairman: But for sheer convenience,
the likelihood is that they will use the mobile network to upload,
will they not?
Mr Bartholomew: It is the reverse;
most people upload content to YouTube via their PCs, often because
it is quicker and easier and it is cheaper as well. If you have
a fixed broadband tariff and you pay £20 a month, there will
be no additional extra charge for doing that, whereas if you did
it over a mobile network, you would pay to do so.
Q128 Chairman: I take that point
entirely, but if they did decide to use the mobile network to
upload content, are you able to keep a record of that? Is there
some data that remains which you can identify?
Ms Church: The service provider
would have those records, if they built their service in a way
to save them?
Q129 Chairman: Your company, if it
were your customer.
Ms Church: It would be YouTube
who would save the record of what had been uploaded.
Q130 Chairman: But you do not have
any kind of record?
Mr Bartholomew: It depends again
how the customer has used their device. If they sent a message
or made a phone call, we have records of that activity. We are
required in law to retain that data and we provide the information
to the police and to other agencies under the framework of the
RIPA Act. We all have dedicated police liaison units; ours operates
24/7 and that kind of request happens day in, day out.
Q131 Chairman: I am still not absolutely
clear about this. If I use my mobile phone to film an event and
I upload that video content to YouTube using the mobile network,
do you have data relating to that upload that you store?
Ms Kramer: We would not necessarily
have the picture, but we could tell the provider the phone number,
we could say "Yes, at that time something happened"
and we would have a call record but not necessarily the content
Q132 Chairman: So the most you could
do is say "You used your phone to upload something to YouTube
at that particular time"?
Ms Kramer: Yes.
Mr Bartholomew: If they used the
network rather than their PC.
Chairman: I understand that; absolutely.
Q133 Alan Keen: You said there were
five main providers. Who are the other providers and what type
of providers are they and what is going to happen with the developing
technology? You would love it to stay at five main providers,
but if competitors get in what can happen with the increasing
and improving technology?
Mr Bartholomew: There are five
network mobile operators in the UK, who operate networks, who
build the infrastructure and then a number of us have wholesale
relationships with other companies who operate what are called
"virtual mobile operators"; they do not build the networks
themselves, they just use our networks, but they market their
services via the high street to the consumer. They are the two
categories. I guess what we are starting to see, however, is that
there are other forms of handheld mobile devices which have the
ability to access and browse the Internet, particularly using
wi-fi, and that is a whole new challenge for the consumer, the
wi-fi connectivity in a new generation of handheld devices like
the iPod touch or the Sony PSP or even the Nokia N95 or the iPhone.
Q134 Alan Keen: I am sorry to interrupt
because I am fascinated by what you are saying, but before we
get onto this, the people who are virtual providers, how does
that work? Do they have to adhere to your IMCB rules? Do you have
complete control of that?
Mr MacLeod: Virgin Mobile, who
is the largest virtual operator, is a signatory to the code and
then the others are rather smaller, piggy-backing on these networks
and they adhere to the code, yes.
Q135 Alan Keen: They adhere to it
and they have all signed up to it. Can you control that if somebody
comes along and says "I am not interested in that"?
Presumably you would stop it from using your network.
Mr MacLeod: Yes; correct.
Mr Bartholomew: Yes.
Q136 Alan Keen: Sorry to interrupt.
Could you carry on with what you were saying about the wi-fi developments?
It is fascinating.
Mr Bartholomew: From the perspective
of the consumer, the new generation of devices gives a fantastic
mobile Internet experience. Finally the hype, which we have all
heard about for years, has become a reality. You can surf the
Internet at high speed, on the move, using wi-fi, and the iPod
touch and the iPhone are two very good examples of that. The experience
is fantastic and it is like having a computer with a smaller screen.
I have had an iPhone for four months. In the evening at home I
use it to surf the Internet via wireless router. I spend more
time surfing on my iPhone that I do on a laptop; the experience
is that good. The challenge from a content regulation point of
view is that many of these devices cut out the mobile network
altogether. The Sony PSP and the iPod touch are two very good
examples of that. We have no control over how citizens use those
devices to access the Internet, because they are not mobile phones
and they come nowhere near a mobile phone network. What we need
to see is other parts of the value chain take a more active role.
For the last six years it has just been the mobile phone operators.
If we are going to retain public confidence moving forward over
the next six years, it cannot just be the mobile operators, it
needs to be the handset manufacturers but also the wi-fi providers
getting more actively engaged in addressing the problems.
Q137 Alan Keen: Are the people starting
to address this or just beginning to think about it? I know it
is not your direct responsibility.
Mr Bartholomew: I think they are
and I hope they will because, like us, they would recognise that
there is just a responsibility and a duty to do it, but I suspect
they see it the same way. They are big companies, they have big
brands and if they want to protect their brand but also grow their
market and retain consumer confidence, they need to protect the
public, they need to protect their customers.
Q138 Alan Keen: Are we safe as the
market is developing, because you have a company of a certain
size to develop the technology; the small companies do the development
initially, but to operate with the public, do you have to be of
a certain size or are we going to get to the point with the technology
changing where there are very small companies who would be less
responsible than the people that you are representing?
Mr MacLeod: It probably depends
what part of the value chain you are talking about. In terms of
major infrastructure and putting out the transmitter bases, you
probably do have to be a pretty large company to get involved
in that but at the content provision end, there are very, very,
very few barriers to entry. We have basically got hundreds of
millions of people out there publishing stuff on the Internet.
Q139 Alan Keen: Talking about mobile
telephones, is that restricted by development costs so small people
cannot get into that? How many manufacturers are there now of
mobile phones? Is that controllable or is that opening up?
Mr MacLeod: It is certainly true
that quite a large proportion of the market is probably concentrated
within five or six providers, but yes, there is still potential
for there to be manufacturers at the margin producing niche products