Are ISPs to be Forced to Violate Privacy Protections with an Unfunded Mandate?

“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.” is how Declan McCullagh’s article at CNET begins. The key thrust of the article was outlined by Michael Hampton at Homeland Stupidity:

Congress has been considering requiring Internet service providers to record the activities of their subscribers, store the data and make it available to government officials upon request.

Dragging out the “child porn” red herring again, the Bush administration and Republican members of Congress are pushing for requirements for ISPs to store data on subscribers, all the way up to recording everything each subscriber does online.

The first requirement that law enforcement officials want is for ISPs to keep a record of which Internet address is assigned to which subscriber at what times. Many ISPs reassign Internet addresses to subscribers based on which subscribers are actively using the network at a given time. The practice makes for more efficient usage of scarce addresses, but law enforcement officials complain that it frustrates investigations.

Obviously, online providers are balking at the idea — as should all Americans. From McCullagh:

Internet providers generally offer three reasons why they are skeptical of mandatory data retention: first, it is not clear who will be able to access records of someone’s online behavior; second, it’s not clear who will pay for the data warehouses to be constructed; and third, it’s not clear that police are hindered by current law as long as they move swiftly in investigations.

Both articles make for interesting (and scary) reading.

In a followup article, Hampton provides some pretty good general information in the latest security tips in keeping the government out of your online activities.

5 Comments
  1. Following 9/11, the airport security industry was nationalized and the USA PATRIOT Act required banks to obtain and maintain all kinds of records. Having an unfunded mandate that the private sector serve as an investigative tool of law enforcement and homeland security is just a hop, skip, and a disaster away unless Congress manages to get a spine from Aisle 4 or the lobbyists for ISPs earn their fees.

  2. This is truly scary. And librarys keep records of the books we check out; grocery stores keep records of the things we buy (what do you think those “discount” cards are for?); and on and on. Everything we do will soon be available to the Government.

    In a very Libertarian column, Popular Science has clear instructions on how to surf the web anonymously using TOR, a network of hundreds of “proxy” servers. It’s free.

    Look for page 86 in the April 2006 issue. A short snip from the article:

    “To the sites you visit it will appear that you’re coming from the last node in the circuit. This also protects your traffic in transit. If an online snoop is watching your data, all he’ll see is that you’re moving between two nodes. He won’t know where you’re coming from or where you’re going.”

    I am assuming that ISPs then can’t report your browsing habits. Yes?

  3. Using Tor is a good start, but as I explained, it is not enough to keep you safe. Click through to read why and what else you need to do.

  4. You’re right…I posted my reply before reading your article.
    Great job, Michael. Certainly worth the read.
    Thanks

  5. If our “pro-life” Dictator refused to follow up and act on info that couldve prevented 9-11, then why is he so eager to snoop in on LEGAL Americans internet usage? If he’s trying to catch terrorists, then he’s five years too late. So freeking unbelievable. I know, I know, those who voted for Bush did so that there wouldnt be any gay marriages, etc etc etc, BUT reasons like that dont guarantee freedom and liberties and certainly dont keep a roof over your head nor put food on the table. GRRRRRRRRRR.