Sunday, April 18, 2010

Triplethought, Part 1

George Orwell explained to us his prophetic vision of humanity's future:

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

The musician Leonard Cohen comments about the future, in his song by the same title:

I've seen the future, brother: it is murder.


The Russian Federation is implementing new regulations requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to keep information on their clients. We begin with Russian ISPs have no fears over new rules by Evgeniya Chaykovskaya, April 16, 2010.

Russia's Ministry of Communications insists that an order for Internet providers to log IP addresses and share them with the authorities is not a clamp-down on net freedom - because it's been going on for ages.

But a federal ban on hosting "extremist" sites already seems to be counter-productive, according to many experts.

Those two comments sum up government programs that are designed to "help" society: they formalize infringements on our liberty while facilitating the very activities they are supposed to protect us against.

Think about that.

And the ruling was received calmly, with 80 per cent of ISPs already doing this, according to Andrei Vorobyov of RU-CENTER's PR department.

"The logic of our business makes us take part in the fight against cybercrime - companies are objectively interested in it. Large companies have been registering clients' IP addresses for a long time. Now those who neglected it will have to register - for example small 'last-mile' providers," Leonid Filatov, CEO of Masterhost hosting company told iToday.

First of all, they are already keeping records of Internet use, and have been for years. And notice, they are doing this in the public interest - who can argue with that? :)

But Andrei Kolesnikov, the Director of Coordination Center for TLD .RU, is certain that fixing IP addresses will not eliminate the problem of the search for cybercriminals: "Those who want to commit a crime on the Internet can take measures to make sure that they are not found afterwards."

Meanwhile Kommersant was unimpressed with a the federal Communications Monitoring Service's efforts to block extremist sites.

Reports cited one Chechen rebel site which attracted a mere handful of visitors until the ban was announced - and the subsequent publicity boosted its traffic as the restrictions were technically difficult to implement.

Nothing like forbidding the fruit to get people to taste it, huh?

Of course, what does one expect from Russia? They have always had an absolutist government, not responsible to the people. Individual liberty, privacy - not factors.

Not a problem in America, right? This could never happen here. We are safe. We live in a free country. We can go back to sleep.

From Your ISP as Net watchdog, by Declan McCullagh, June 16, 2005:

The U.S. Department of Justice is quietly shopping around the explosive idea of requiring Internet service providers to retain records of their customers' online activities.

Data retention rules could permit police to obtain records of e-mail chatter, Web browsing or chat-room activity months after Internet providers ordinarily would have deleted the logs--that is, if logs were ever kept in the first place. No U.S. law currently mandates that such logs be kept.

In theory, at least, data retention could permit successful criminal and terrorism prosecutions that otherwise would have failed because of insufficient evidence. But privacy worries and questions about the practicality of assembling massive databases of customer behavior have caused a similar proposal to stall in Europe and could engender stiff opposition domestically.

Whatever it is they are going to claim they want to protect us from, understand that sorting through massive databases will diminish their ability to protect us from it. Investigators will go after innocent people who have done something that looks suspicious, and this will mean fewer critical resources are allocated to investigate people who really are doing something that needs to be investigated.

This is how government bureaucracy works.

What is it they want to protect us from? Skipping down in the article:

Justice Department officials endorsed the concept at a private meeting with Internet service providers and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to interviews with multiple people who were present. The meeting took place on April 27 at the Holiday Inn Select in Alexandria, Va.

"It was raised not once but several times in the meeting, very emphatically," said Dave McClure, president of the U.S. Internet Industry Association, which represents small to midsize companies. "We were told, 'You're going to have to start thinking about data retention if you don't want people to think you're soft on child porn.'"

Protect children from exploitation? Help missing and exploited children? Crack down on child pornography? Who can argue with that?

And, remember, if you're not with the government in the fight against child pornography, then you're with the pornographers.

Most of the comments to the article call attention to the threat posed here by government. One comment nails it:

The Justice Department, FBI, CIA, and NSA all report to the Executive Branch. We have seen over the years, starting with Nixon and Watergate to Clinton and Filegate (remember that one -- FBI files that mysteriously appeared in the White House), that there are few real protections and NO OVERSIGHT as to what goes on behind White House closed doors. Having access to individuals' web and email activity will provide a boon to corrupt administrations that want to compile dirt on their opposition and wage character assasination. This is the real danger -- that the opposition will effectively be neutralized. The govenerance of the country then basically becomes a dictatorship.

Filegate - first there were a hundred or so files. When caught, the Clinton Administration explained that it was no big deal, there were actually about 300. Then, when America was a little more upset, the number jumped to 500, 700, 900. The Clinton Administration taught us that little crimes upset the American people, but when you excuse yourself by explaining the crime was bigger than we had thought, then it's okay.

As the crimes get bigger, then it's okay....

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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