Thursday, May 18, 2006

Congress May Require ISPs to Snoop on Americans

I'm shocked to post something from CNET News, but there you go. Looks like they're trying to extend some of the spying rules to the net now. Like there was any doubt that this would come...

Congress may make ISPs snoop on you
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: May 16, 2006, 4:00 AM PDT

A prominent Republican on Capitol Hill has prepared legislation that would rewrite Internet privacy rules by requiring that logs of Americans' online activities be stored, CNET has learned.

The proposal comes just weeks after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Internet service providers should retain records of user activities for a "reasonable amount of time," a move that represented a dramatic shift in the Bush administration's views on privacy.

Legislation is being prepared that would rewrite Internet privacy rules by requiring that logs of Americans' online activities be stored.
Bottom line:

The legislation would create a federal felony targeted at bloggers, search engines, e-mail service providers and many other Web sites that might "facilitate" access to unlawful pornography.

Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is proposing that ISPs be required to record information about Americans' online activities so that police can more easily "conduct criminal investigations." Executives at companies that fail to comply would be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

In addition, Sensenbrenner's legislation--expected to be announced as early as this week--also would create a federal felony targeted at bloggers, search engines, e-mail service providers and many other Web sites. It's aimed at any site that might have "reason to believe" it facilitates access to child pornography--through hyperlinks or a discussion forum, for instance.

Speaking to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last month, Gonzales warned of the dangers of pedophiles using the Internet anonymously and called for new laws from Congress. "At the most basic level, the Internet is used as a tool for sending and receiving large amounts of child pornography on a relatively anonymous basis," Gonzales said.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc.

Until Gonzales' speech, the Bush administration had explicitly opposed laws requiring data retention, saying it had "serious reservations" (click here for PDF) about them. But after the European Parliament last December approved such a requirement for Internet, telephone and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, top administration officials began talking about it more favorably.

The drafting of the data-retention proposal comes as Republicans are trying to do more to please their conservative supporters before the November election. One bill announced last week targets and other social networking sites. At a meeting last weekend, social conservatives called on the Bush administration to step up action against pornography, according to a New York Times report.

Sensenbrenner's proposal is likely to be controversial. It would substantially alter U.S. laws dealing with privacy protection of Americans' Web surfing habits and is sure to alarm Internet businesses that could be at risk for linking to illicit Web sites.

A spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee said the aide who drafted the legislation was not immediately available for an interview on Monday.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Drew Wade said the agency generally doesn't comment on legislation, though it may "issue a letter of opinion" at a later date.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, called Sensenbrenner's measure an "open-ended obligation to collect information about all customers for all purposes. It opens the door to government fishing expeditions and unbounded data mining."

The National Security Agency has engaged in extensive data-mining about Americans' phone calling habits, USA Today reported last week, a revelation that could complicate Republicans' efforts to enact laws relating to mandatory data retention and data mining. Sen. John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, for instance, took a swipe at the program on Monday, and Democrats have been calling for a formal investigation.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:05 AM