During an appearance on CNN Wednesday night, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange warned that mass surveillance was becoming a worldwide problem as technology progressed.
Internet companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook are increasingly co-opted for surveillance work as the information they gather proves irresistible to law enforcement agencies, Web experts said this week.
While U.S. courts are obliged to publish reports on wire-tapping of telephone lines, no similar information is required to be made public with respect to the Internet — which grew up after the laws on electronic communications were passed.
Internet providers would be forced to keep logs of their customers’ activities for one year—in case police want to review them in the future—under legislation that a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved today.
The 19 to 10 vote represents a victory for conservative Republicans, who made data retention their first major technology initiative after last fall’s elections, and the Justice Department officials who have quietly lobbied for the sweeping new requirements, a development first reported by CNET.
A last-minute rewrite of the bill expands the information that commercial Internet providers are required to store to include customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and temporarily-assigned IP addresses, some committee members suggested. By a 7-16 vote, the panel rejected an amendment that would have clarified that only IP addresses must be stored.
It represents “a data bank of every digital act by every American” that would “let us find out where every single American visited Web sites,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who led Democratic opposition to the bill.
Lofgren said the data retention requirements are easily avoided because they only apply to “commercial” providers. Criminals would simply go to libraries or Starbucks coffeehouses and use the Web anonymously, she said, while law-abiding Americans would have their activities recorded.
To make it politically difficult to oppose, proponents of the data retention requirements dubbed the bill the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, even though the mandatory logs would be accessible to police investigating any crime and perhaps attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases as well.
“The bill is mislabeled,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the panel. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”
At the moment, Internet service providers typically discard any log file that’s no longer required for business reasons such as network monitoring, fraud prevention, or billing disputes. Companies do, however, alter that general rule when contacted by police performing an investigation—a practice called data preservation.
A 1996 federal law called the Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act regulates data preservation. It requires Internet providers to retain any “record” in their possession for 90 days “upon the request of a governmental entity.”
The Obama Administration’s effort to obtain your location from cell phone towers without a warrant was rebuffed Wednesday by a federal court.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the Justice Department cannot obtain information about which cell phone towers mobile phones communicate with without a warrant.
Apparently, the UK’s GCHQ is having the same problem East Germany’s Stasi had: Massive spying on their own population leads to such an enormous growth of data that the data itself becomes unmanageable. So now they are turning to Google…
The Register understands that GCHQ now has a cluster of more than 250,000 commodity servers under its Cheltenham “doughnut” building. In recent years it has developed this Google-style infrastructure instead of the very expensive, bespoke supercomputers it used to analyse microwave intercepts during the Cold War.