ISPA launches hunt for Internet Villain 2011

UK trade body the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has today launched its search for this year's Internet Hero and Internet Villain. And for the first time, it's asking the public for help by emailing and tweeting in their nominations for the two awards.

Last year's recipient of the less-than-coveted 'Internet Villain' award was none other than Lord Mandelson, for introducing the controversial Digital Economy Act to parliament. Labour MP Tom Watson, a fierce opponent of the bill, was handed the Internet Hero plaudit.

If a straw poll of the thinq_ news team is anything to go by, this year's nominations will be a one-horse race. Odds-on favourite for Internet Villian has to be Andrew Crossley, the disgraced head of now-defunct cowboy legal outfit ACS:Law.

Crossley's firm is credited with pioneering the dubious practice of 'speculative invoicing' - sending letters alleging that the recipients had illegally downloaded copyright material, demanding large sums of money to avoid legal action.

Last week the Information Commissioner's Office slashed a £200,000 fine imposed on the suit-slinging litigation shyster to just £1,000 - a massive 99.5 per cent reduction - since ACS:Law is no longer trading. The fine had been imposed over a data breach that leaked his firm's entire email database onto the web after a hacking attack, and reduced because Bentley-driving lawyer who reportedly lives in a seven-bedroom house pleaded poverty.

We'd like to think Crossley will get his reward in the next world, but we're all atheists - so small comforts like a slagging off from ISPA will have to do.

Honourable mentions also go to Sony, whose complacence and incompetence over security allowed hackers to make off more than 100 million users' credit card details, and Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, the UK's privacy watchdog.

Graham's tenure has been inauspicious, to say the least - flip-flopping over the wireless data illegally collected by Google's Street View cars - first claiming there way no case to answer, then re-opening the case but failing to impose any sanctions on search giant. Google, for its part, said it was very, very sorry and promised faithfully never to flagrantly ignore data protection rules in almost every territory on Earth ever, ever again.

Maybe we're cynics, but heroes appear a little thinner on the ground - perhaps Judge Colin Birss QC, the man who threw Crossley's feeble excuses for litigation out of court and, for once, proved that a member of the legal profession had a modicum of understanding when it came to technology.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below - and while you're at it, send your nominations in to ISPA, either via email to awards@ispa.org.uk or to ISPA's Twitter feed, @ISPAUK. Closing date for nominations is Monday 23rd May 2011, after which the eventual winners will be chosen by the ISPA's council.