[ISN] Police Should Stick to the Rule Book (email/privacy)

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Fri Oct 23 1998 - 19:03:59 PDT

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    [Moderator: Something about 'keeping all e-mail for a week' seems a BIT 
     out of line to me.]
    Forwarded From: Nicholas Charles Brawn <ncb05t_private>
    By Colin Barker.
    In a series of meetings with Internet service providers (ISPs), the police
    have proposed ways in which ISPs could give police better access to
    various electronic communications, including email and bulletin boards. 
    For example, the police would like the ISPs to keep all emails for a week. 
    That way, if the police want to check on an email that may or may not have
    been sent at a particular time, they can - providing it was sent in the
    previous week. 
    The police are worried about criminal behaviour that they, and the media,
    call Internet crime. This is a ragbag of offences, of which the activities
    of paedophiles is the best known. 
    Internet crime also includes fraud - people allegedly moving large sums of
    money from someone else's bank account into their own; extortion - hackers
    demanding money backed by the threat of 'information terrorism'; and
    espionage - whether it be hackers infiltrating defence systems or
    professionals searching for industrial secrets. 
    These are well-known, well-established crimes. The fact that the
    perpetrators now often use computers to execute their crimes does not
    create a new category of criminal. 
    What is worrying the police is that criminals have been faster, when it
    comes to exploiting the technology, than the police forces of the world. 
    Rather than let the criminals get away with it, the police want to gain
    access to the technology to use it themselves to track criminals. 
    Is there anything wrong with this? 
    Well, try this for size: what if the police proposed that all telephone
    calls should be taped and kept for a week - just in case they wanted to
    listen to some conversations that could help them with their enquiries? 
    Quite apart from the physical problems - the cost of millions of tape
    drives or thousands of terabytes of digitally stored and compressed voice
    data - there is the question of privacy. 
    If the police want to tape telephone conversations they need a special
    order. Why should the regulations be any different for email?  And that's
    the point. The police and the ISPs are meeting because the police want to
    talk about a 'code of conduct' for ISPs to keep information and store it,
    when necessary, while at the same time maintaining the balance of personal
    But I suspect there is no need for any of this.  When the police follow
    the correct procedures they already have the resources to intercept 'snail
    mail' or listen in on telephone conversations. 
    There is nothing different about the Internet. It has not created a new
    category of crime or criminals, nor has it created a special category of
    It is just new and different, a combination which often invokes panic in
    government and police. 
    Police representatives will put their case in Computing next week. 
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