Monday, April 19, 2010

Triplethought, Part 2

In Part 1, we began looking at how the US government was seeking to require ISPs to keep records of Internet activity, and was seeking access to such records.

We now jump across "the pond" to see the progress of a similar endeavor in Europe. From Europe passes tough new data retention laws, by Jo Best, December 14, 2005:

The European Parliament on Wednesday passed new, far-reaching data retention legislation for the telecommunications industry.


Telecommunications providers will now have to keep data such as the time of each fixed and cell phone call made in Europe; whether a call is answered or not; the duration of the call; and other details that can help trace the caller. On the Internet side, they will be required to retain information on the times people connect to the Internet, people's IP addresses, and details pertaining to e-mail messages and VoIP calls. The content of the communications will not be recorded.

"The content of the communications will not be recorded" - and we trust them to not record the content, and we trust them that this will not change.

The legislation is being championed by the U.K. and other governments. They say it will help trace terrorists through communications records. The change in the law was proposed during the U.K.'s presidency of the European Union in the wake of the July 7 bombings in London.

If the UK government were serious about ending terrorism, why do their politicians persist with their program of population replacement, driving the native population off the British Isles, even as those loyal to a foreign ideology of armed conquest - Islam - are being brought in by droves?

It is politically easier to get some technical means to maintain surveillance over the entire population that it is to have the balls to single out the militant groups that are causing the problems and deal with them.

But, back to Amerika... (Oops, did I spell that wrong?) From ISP snooping gaining support by Declan McCullagh, April 14, 2006:

The explosive idea of forcing Internet providers to record their customers' online activities for future police access is gaining ground in state capitols and in Washington, D.C.

Top Bush administration officials have endorsed the concept, and some members of the U.S. Congress have said federal legislation is needed to aid law enforcement investigations into child pornography. A bill is already pending in the Colorado State Senate.

Mandatory data retention requirements worry privacy advocates because they permit police to obtain records of e-mail chatter, Web browsing or chat-room activity that normally would have been discarded after a few months. And some proposals would require providers to retain data that ordinarily never would have been kept at all.


At a hearing last week, Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican who heads a House oversight and investigations subcommittee, suggested that data retention laws would be useful to police investigating crimes against children.

Yeah, do it for our children. (Since I question this, I must be an extremist siding with child pornographers, right? Maybe it's worse - maybe I'm Osama bin Laden...)

"What we haven't seen is any evidence where the data would have been helpful, where the problem was not caused by law enforcement taking too long when they knew a problem existed," said Dave McClure, president of the U.S. Internet Industry Association, which represents small to midsize companies.

McClure said that while data retention aficionados cite child pornography, the stored data would be open to any type of investigation--including, for instance, those focused on drug crimes, tax fraud, or terrorism prosecutions. "The agenda behind this doesn't appear to be legitimate," he said.

Mr. McClure's comment is right on the money!

I leave you to read a position paper on the topic from the USIIA. (See also this link, dated February 17, 2005.)

I will come back to this in Part 5.

Meanwhile, the story continues as a few days later, the US Attorney General called for "'reasonable' data retention", then Congress quickly picked up on this way to infringe into the privacy of the people protect children from pornographers. From Congress may consider mandatory ISP snooping by Declan McCullagh, April 28, 2006:

It didn't take long for the idea of forcing Internet providers to retain records of their users' activities to gain traction in the U.S. Congress.

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a Republican, gave a speech saying that data retention by Internet service providers is an "issue that must be addressed." Child pornography investigations have been "hampered" because data may be routinely deleted, Gonzales warned.

Now, in a demonstration of bipartisan unity, a Democratic member of the Congressional Internet Caucus is preparing to introduce an amendment--perhaps during a U.S. House of Representatives floor vote next week--that would make such data deletion illegal.

Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette's proposal (click for PDF) says that any Internet service that "enables users to access content" must permanently retain records that would permit police to identify each user. The records could not be discarded until at least one year after the user's account was closed.

It's not clear whether that requirement would be limited only to e-mail providers and Internet providers such as DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem services. An expansive reading of DeGette's measure would require every Web site to retain those records. (Details would be left to the Federal Communications Commission.)

So a bunch of bureaucrats and appointed officials, who worked for Bush-43 at the time, would be in charge of invading our privacy.

Interestingly, concerns about protecting our privacy were in the minds of our Department of Justice only five years previously, in response to the then-growing movement in Europe for ISP record retention. From Comments of the United States Government on the European Commission Communication on Combating Computer Crime, March, 2001:

Any regulation of conduct involving the use of the Internet requires a careful consideration of different societal interests. Triumph over network crime cannot and must not come at the price of lost privacy and individual freedom. Our domestic investigative tools are subject to strict constitutional, statutory, courtordered, and internal policy limitations, and we are committed to ensuring that such tools continue to be developed and used consistent with our laws and our much-cherished notions of individual liberty.

An interesting comment follows the above paragraph, only a little farther down in the paper:

Because cyber criminals are not confined by national borders or geography, numerous US agencies participate in an initiative coordinated by the State Department to conduct international outreach on critical infrastructure protection. This initiative recognizes that exploitation of information technology is an increasing feature of transnational crime, and that governments around the world must work together to harmonize their substantive and procedural computer crime laws and establish new mechanisms that allow for prompt assistance in investigating and prosecuting computer-related crimes.

Cyber criminals are not confined by national borders or geography; neither are they confined to extra-governmental service! And, by 2006, the US government had reversed course concerning the privacy of American citizens.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

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