Thursday, June 01, 2006

Histories Of All Internet Usage To Be Kept For Two Years

We have another dodgy initiative by the government in their effort to keep us safe from "terror" and from child pornography.

Top law enforcement officials have asked leading Internet companies to keep histories of the activities of Web users for up to two years to assist in criminal investigations of child pornography and terrorism, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller outlined their request to executives from Google, Microsoft, AOL, Comcast, Verizon and others Friday in a private meeting at the Justice Department. The department has scheduled more discussions as early as Friday. Last week's meeting was first reported by CNET, an online news service.

The meetings reflect a new approach by law enforcement in anti-terrorism efforts. Previously, the Justice Department had invoked the need for data retention only to battle child pornography. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Internet traffic has become increasingly critical to terrorism investigations, too.

Justice is not asking the companies to keep the content of e-mails, spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. It wants records such as lists of e-mail traffic and Web searches, he said...

Lee Tien, a lawyer for the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was concerned.

"I think that the request raises some really, really major privacy problems," he said. The Justice Department is "asking ISPs (Internet service providers) to really become an arm of the government."...

This isn't the first time Gonzales has gone to Internet companies with a request related to their records. In March, a federal judge ordered Google to hand over Web search records requested by Justice as part of its efforts to shield children from sexually explicit material online. Google balked at an earlier request, saying it would expose trade secrets. AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft cooperated with the government, but they said their assistance was limited and users' privacy was not violated.

It is telling that the government feels it necessary to justify their request by two separate rationales, combating terrorists and pedophiles. This tactic really puts the onus upon the ISPs to cooperate or else be smeared with an allegation of having protected two of the most unsympathetic categories of people that can be found.

9 Comments:

Blogger DrewL said...

To cooperate with the government on this would be unconscionable. Nobody likes legitimate terrorists or pedophiles, but this isn't about terrorists and pedophiles.

If the government has probable cause to suspect illegal activity on the part of specific individuals, then get a warrant and collect the necessary data from the ISPs. Otherwise, hands off. That's the way things are supposed to work in this country.

Oh, but I forgot that we're now living in "New America", where the old rules and rights no longer apply.

The ISPs need to tell the government to go to hell on this one.

6/01/2006 11:17 PM  
Blogger Meatball One said...

There is a rather banal consideration in all of this moonkey biznezz and that is of cost. The extra overhead for implementing such a storage scheme is not insignificant for the telecoms. Who's gonna get stuck footin' the bill?

6/02/2006 7:10 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...

DrewL:

It's another example of the government's attempt to get to know their citizens better.

One big touchy-feely outreach program.

6/02/2006 8:36 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...

M1:

The increased costs will be passed along to the customer.

Kinda like the practice in some places here in the U.S. where after a short spell in jail--they give you a bill for your room and board.

6/02/2006 8:38 AM  
Blogger DrewL said...

I suspect Verizon's looming 4,000 job cuts will do a nice job of funding some of that database cost. Where there's a will, there's a way. No doubt, the government will sweeten the pot for them, as well.

6/02/2006 11:37 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

DrewL:

The job cuts were intended to go straight to the bottom line.

The stockholders would scream bloody murder if the costs of the storage were going to taken out of profits.

So you are right, the government will probably sweeten the deal.

6/03/2006 7:48 AM  
Anonymous gw buddha said...

I kinda have to wonder with all this though, if they weren't already keeping records all along...

Either way though, won't that be pretty expensive for ISP's to keep all that additional data? Who's gonna pay for that?

6/04/2006 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few bloggers have mentioned the extra cost involved. This really isn't that great of an issue. Most service providers maintain sizable subsets of the information that the DOJ is/will be requesting. The issue is in the length of retention. But even there, the cost is not substantial compared to other concerns.

The real concern is in the loss of privacy. People are too quick to look at the immediate implications without considering the context.

For example, given only your phone records, I can (yes, I have actually been trained in this, also assuming that I have a sufficent model) accurately predict your income, where you live, what you eat, if you are married and faithful, etc. Now take this capability and index it against your searchs, email addresses, etc. I quickly become able to tell some of your most intimate and private details.

This inturn allows creates 2 noticable routes for abuse. On the individual scale, I can selectively determine not only who is violating the law, but also who has a lifestyle or belief that I don't like; an open door for discrimination and selective encouragement of success.

On the public scale, such information gives me the ability to determine where and when certain actions or programs need to be taken and how successful they are. In a nutshell, you want to re-structure the population to vote only republican, be of a specific religion, stop disagreement with authority....this is the information you need.

well, just some thoughts

6/07/2006 11:40 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...

Anon @12:40

Good comment, thanks.

6/07/2006 11:48 AM  

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