Internet Privacy Myth

The battle for privacy continues to make more U-turns as FBI Director, Robert Mueller claims he "called for data retention on the part of Internet providers, and emphasized the point two years later when explicitly asking Congress to enact a law making it mandatory. But it had not been clear before that the FBI was asking companies to begin to keep logs of what Web sites are visited, which few if any currently do." In addition, CNN lists most other policing agencies concurring, ostensibly meaning they will have access to all of "our" data as well.  While we’re in favor of doing whatever it takes to bring down all sorts of predators, it’s not entirely clear if Congress can frame a law that will hold up and that it will be used legally.

Internet Privacy Myth
Which Side Of The Barbed Wire Are We On?

In case you weren’t aware, "Federal regulations in place since at least 1986 require phone companies that offer toll service to "retain for a period of 18 months" records including "the name, address, and telephone number of the caller, telephone number called, date, time and length of the call." Now they will know where all the porn addicts live, work, watch and how often they go online to get off. They will also know every web site you visit and every user name you use.  If you store videos, photos or tunes online, they will see those, and if walk your dog, they will be able to watch you from satellites. But wait, there is a group looking out after our purported interests: "At Thursday’s meeting of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, which was created by Congress and organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Greg Motta, the chief of the FBI’s digital evidence section "stressed that the bureau was not asking that content data, such as the text of e-mail messages, be retained."

Reminds me of a bunch of gearheads back in the mid-nineties trying to imagine "2010" coming and how much storage capacity you would need to store even a week’s worth of emails, then sort on them. The theory now being, of course, that if the police find activity they feel fits a particular pattern, which would easily be predicted robotically, then they get a warrant and look at everything. Reports on that alone boggle the mind when you consider how many sickos have been uncovered.

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Information Leakage – the enemy is within
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John Seiver, an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine who represents cable providers, said one of his clients had experience with a law enforcement request that required the logging of outbound URLs, "Eighteen million hits an hour would have to have been logged."  Nothing much is clear on this, but forces are trying to figure out how to do the right thing, and it sure perks our ears up.  Let us know if you have any tips or insights please.

From a technology point-of-view, "if you were do to deep packet inspection to see all the URLs, you would arguably violate the Wiretap Act." This is another aspect of it all and there are lots of great technologies out there like Procera Networks and iPogue and Ciena with innovations that are needed to move information faster and more securely. The issue appears more semantics than to do with privacy as the Internet continues to grow rapidly. If the people on both sides committed to improving communications, the Internet and all its users would be better off. If you use the Internet regularly, you ought to know that anything you do is out there. Somewhere, for all to see.

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