I've been busy at work writing a series of articles about what's going
on in terms of forcing Internet service providers to snoop on Americans.
Basically Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller met with
Internet and telecom companies (including Microsoft, Google, Verizon,
and Comcast) last Friday and called on them to store data about users'
activities for two years:
Until that meeting, Gonzales and the Justice Department had been saying
this would be useful for child porn fighting. Now they've realized (took
'em long enough) that (a) the stored data would be useful for terrorism
investigations and (b) it might be politically convenient to pitch it as
an anti-terrorism measure:
Companies aren't very happy about this. And of course any such
know-your-user law would presumably apply to libraries, schools, and
coffee shops as well:
Looking ahead a few years, assuming that data retention is adopted, it's
unclear that the Feds would stop there. Imagine a shocking horrible
tragedy could have been prevented if only even more expansive laws had
been adopted on top of data retention. The end game eventually could
involve (a) making it unlawful to offer Internet access without
verifying identities, effectively shutting down open WiFi nodes and (b)
restricting the use of encryption and anonymity services -- after all,
what good is a pile of retained data if it doesn't tell you very much?
This is sheer speculation, mind you. But then again a House of
Representatives committee once approved a bill that would make it
unlawful to sell encryption products without backdoors for the Feds. And
Sen. Judd Gregg talked about restricting encryption products soon after
9/11, so perhaps it's not _that_ unlikely either.
One other thing worth thinking about in terms of the Washington endgame.
The Internet providers I've talked to have been generally opposed to the
idea. But one of their primary complaints is the logical one of how much
it will cost. If the Feds decide to write them a fat check, their
complaints could evaporate and the legislation would instantly
experience far less opposition. Watch for this; it would follow what
happened with CALEA.
Here's Microsoft's statement on data retention:
Or, if you prefer, CNN and USA Today coverage of the topic:
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