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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    CNet: Police want backdoor to Web users’ private data

    CNet reports on a new survey that has implications for privacy and civil liberties:

    CNET has reviewed a survey scheduled to be released at a federal task force meeting on Thursday, which says that law enforcement agencies are virtually unanimous in calling for [the creation of a national Web interface linking police computers with those of Internet and e-mail providers so requests can be sent and received electronically]. Eighty-nine percent of police surveyed, it says, want to be able to “exchange legal process requests and responses to legal process” through an encrypted, police-only “nationwide computer network.” (See one excerpt and another.)

    The survey, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, is part of a broader push from law enforcement agencies to alter the ground rules of online investigations. Other components include renewed calls for laws requiring Internet companies to store data about their users for up to five years and increased pressure on companies to respond to police inquiries in hours instead of days.

    But the most controversial element is probably the private Web interface, which raises novel security and privacy concerns, especially in the wake of a recent inspector general’s report (PDF) from the Justice Department. The 289-page report detailed how the FBI obtained Americans’ telephone records by citing nonexistent emergencies and simply asking for the data or writing phone numbers on a sticky note rather than following procedures required by law. [...]

    The police survey is not exactly unbiased: its author is Frank Kardasz, who is scheduled to present it at a meeting (PDF) of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Kardasz, a sergeant in the Phoenix police department and a project director of Arizona’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force, said in an e-mail exchange on Tuesday that he is still revising the document and was unable to discuss it.

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