[LINK] Experts Say Digital Privacy May Suffer Amid Attacks
Sun, 14 Oct 2001 21:52:57 +1000
Experts Say Digital Privacy May Suffer Amid Attacks
September 13, 2001
Filed at 6:26 p.m. ET
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Privacy advocates warned Thursday against the
dangers of increased Internet wiretapping and monitoring by law enforcement
in the wake of Tuesday's hijacked airplane attacks on landmark buildings in
New York and outside Washington, D.C.
The worry is that authorities will trample digital civil liberties in their
zeal to prevent possible future attacks like the ones which destroyed the
World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, experts said.
Within one day of the attack, officials were discussing the need to tighten
measures to protect national security and to plan retaliation for the
"I heard former President (George H. W.) Bush saying we've got to prepare
to give up our civil liberties," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional
law professor at the University of Southern California Law School in Los
Angeles. "All of that sentiment is very dangerous at this point in time."
"I think there's going to be a real effort to give government more
surveillance authority," he added.
Internet service providers America Online, a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc.
(news/quote) (AOL.N), EarthLink (news/quote) Network Inc. (ELNK.O) and
Microsoft Corp (news/quote) (MSFT.O) confirmed that they are cooperating
with the investigations into the attacks, although they would not say
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was heavily criticized when it was
revealed last year that it had been installing at Internet service provider
sites so-called "Carnivore" devices for monitoring e-mails. Microsoft and
EarthLink said they have not installed the boxes, but are cooperating with
the FBI, nonetheless.
The devices, now dubbed "DCS1000," not only record all the communications
of the target, but of other subscriber customers of the Internet service
provider, as well, according to privacy rights activists.
It is easy for authorities to get search warrants to use the monitoring
technology, allowing them to conduct investigations as needed, experts
But that might not stop officials from seeking broader powers to prevent
America's enemies from using the Internet to coordinate future attacks.
David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in
Washington, D.C., said U.S. lawmakers and government officials typically
call for increased surveillance authority after terrorist-related
"Unfortunately, there sometimes is a tendency to capitalize on these
situations to increase investigative power," Sobel said. "If past incidents
are any guide we are likely to see such proposals."
"When I heard (of) this (attack), I thought people are just going to
trample the Bill of Rights into the dust," said Lance Cottrell, president
of Anonymizer.com, which allows people to surf the Web anonymously.
"Some people, I think cynically, are taking advantage of this moment to
push an agenda which they've had for some time," Cottrell said.
HIJACKERS LEFT PAPER TRAIL
Experts pointed out that in the case of Tuesday's devastating attack,
however, a paper trail is already developing, which might make increased
online surveillance unnecessary.
"The feeling I get is these folks (hijackers and accomplices) made very
little effort to hide themselves," said Richard M. Smith, chief technology
officer of the Privacy Foundation, a non-profit organization that
researches privacy issues related to technology. "They used real names and
Investigators have identified several suspects and found rental car
receipts and other documents that are aiding their search for evidence.
Despite that, some experts said they feared broader electronic profiling of
individuals in general would be hastened as a result of the attacks.
"There will be a lot of data-collecting cloaked in national security
concern," said Lori Fena, chairman and co-founder of Truste, a San Jose,
California, non-profit organization that runs a Web site privacy seal
Once the system is in place it is easy to expand such data aggregation
beyond the specific purpose, she said.
"The use of the data should be restricted to security measures and not used
by corporations (or governments) for other purposes," Fena added.
There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats;
For I am armed so strong in honesty
That they pass by me as the idle wind,
Which I respect not.
-- Julius Caesar. William Shakespeare