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Ruling Endangers Privacy in Email and IP Addresses

The court appears to grasp this distinction, but, unfortunately, doesn't follow it to the correct conclusion. In a footnote, the court points out that capturing URLs of webpages visited "might be more constitutionally problematic" because "[a] URL, unlike an IP address, identifies the particular document within a website that a person views and thus reveals much more information about the person's Internet activity. However, an IP address can point to a particular website and can also be used to identify "much more information about the person's Internet activity." For instance, it can be combined with information about the size of a file downloaded from a particular IP to identify a particular page on a website.

On top of this casual, erroneous reasoning, the court oddly says almost nothing about how the surveillance actually occurred. Indeed, at one point the opinion says, "the government applied for and received court permission to install a pen register analogue on [defendant's] computer." Ordinarily, pen register surveillance takes place on the provider's system, not on the target's computer; so this statement, along with the fact that keylogging software was used, raised questions about whether the court approved physical entry or some kind of remote surveillance like the FBI's "Magic Lantern." EFF has confirmed with defense counsel that the surveillance in fact occurred at the provider's system, but these ambiguities only underscore the need for review of the opinion.

FBI Records Show Gonzales Knew About Years of Chronic NSL Problems

EFF Lawsuit Uncovers History of Surveillance Mistakes

Washington, D.C. - Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) show years of chronic problems with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's use of National Security Letters (NSLs) to collect Americans' personal information and that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has long been aware of these problems.

The documents were disclosed after EFF sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) earlier this year for records related to a scathing Justice Department critique of FBI NSL activity. The records detail more than 40 instances of improper, unauthorized collection of information about individuals, including unlawful access to phone records and email. The records show that Gonzales himself was sent several of these problem reports, including one less than a week before he told a congressional committee that no civil liberties abuses have resulted from the USA PATRIOT Act. He also voiced surprise when the Justice Department report on NSL misuse was made public earlier this year.

Dangerous Ruling Forces Search Engine to Log Users

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) urged a California court Friday to overturn a dangerous ruling that would require an Internet search engine to create and store logs of its users' activities as part of electronic discovery obligations in a civil lawsuit.

The ruling came in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by motion picture studios against TorrentSpy, a popular search engine that indexes materials made publicly available via the Bit Torrent file sharing protocol. TorrentSpy has never logged its visitors' Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Notwithstanding this explicit privacy policy, a federal magistrate judge has now ordered TorrentSpy to activate logging and turn the logged data over to the studios.

"This unprecedented ruling has implications well beyond the file sharing context," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Giving litigants the power to rewrite their opponent's privacy policies poses a risk to all Internet users."

I know the EFF gets a lot of flak for what they do, but I have to give them credit (and money) for what they are trying to do. Whether they are too ideal in their beliefs of just plain crazy, they really do try and prevent all sorts of privacy invading court rulings and programs.

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