Saturday, January 28, 2006

Countdown: The Patriot Act Deadline Approaching

The Patriot Act is set to expire next Friday.

If you haven't been following the debate, this post will bring you up to speed on the upcoming countdown to the new expiration date of the Patriot Act. Congress granted a five-week extension at the end of the last year. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter this week urged fellow senators to either approve the agreement that's been hammered out with the House or pass another extension.

While the Act gives law enforcement new tools to fight terrorism, a bipartisan group of senators says the renewal plan doesn't safeguard privacy enough. House officials have said they're finished negotiating and are standing behind the earlier agreement with Senate bargainers.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Slippery Slope?

In the previous post, I wrote about COPA and the Government’s request for Google’s record. Some say that this might be the beginning of a slippery slope. In November, Search Engine Watch wrote about a man who was convicted of killing his wife partly because law enforcement authorities discovered that he used Google to search for “neck,” “snap,” and “hold.”

The authorities did not get that information from Google, but from the man’s ISP. Basically, everything you do on the Internet is recorded on your computer – in your cache, in your browser history, and possibly stored by your ISP. Your ISP can see pages you are requesting and may store some amount of records that you’ve requested for a specific period of time.

You know, personally I’m glad they caught this guy. The concern over the Government getting involved in combing through search records sounds familiar doesn’t it? Battelle has a post that suggests that while:

"...the government intends to use these data specifically for its COPA-related test, it's possible that the information could lead to further investigations and, perhaps, subpoenas to find out who was doing the searching. What if certain search terms indicated that people were contemplating terrorist actions or other criminal activities? Says the DOJ's Miller, "I'm assuming that if something raised alarms, we would hand it over to the proper [authorities]." Privacy advocates fear that if the government request is upheld, it will open the door to further government examination of search behavior."

A phrase often attributed to Franklin is: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

What do you value more?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More on Google

What is COPA? It was a 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA). The act required credit card or age verification for access to adult sites. The Supreme Court struck down the act citing a First Amendment violation and said that the Government should devise a less intrusive revision of the law or prove that the law does not violate the First Amendment.

The Department of Justice has argued that Internet filtering software was ineffective, the solution must be the COPA. The Government has subpoenaed Google, as well as other search engines, seeking a large amount of information from their databases. The Government hopes to prove how much pornography is returned in search results and show that we should return to COPA.

While other search engines complied with the Government’s request, Google has not. They have argued that it would violate privacy rights of users and also reveal trade secrets. According to an IIT article, a “privacy advocate said that it sets a dangerous precedent – it opens the door to subpoenaing Google and other companies for “national security” reasons, such as the IP addresses of anyone who searched for information on bomb making.”

More on the idea that this might be a slippery slope later.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Google follow up story

Some of the news that carried the Google vs. Government story a few days ago failed to explain why the Government wanted the search records. This NPR story explains it well. Prosecutors argue that it would help them defend a controversial child pornography law.

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