[ISN] Technology a threat to right of privacy Silicon Valley

From: cult hero (jerichoat_private)
Date: Sun Jun 06 1999 - 09:39:41 PDT

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    Forwarded From: Putrefied Cow <wasteat_private>
                 Technology a threat to right of privacy Silicon Valley             
                                 (Irish Times; 06/04/99)                            
       Last week, the US Congress requested that its intelligence services
    provide a detailed report about a global electronic eavesdropping system
    know as Echelon. They refused. Now congress is moving to make its request
       Echelon is just one of the emerging uses of technology that is eroding
    a basic human right, privacy. The system indiscriminately monitors
    satellite and Internet communications traffic using keyword searches in
    the case of e-mail, and scanning for certain telephone numbers in the case
    of mobile phones. 
       The report was requested by Congress's House Committee on Intelligence
    and specifically asked that National Security Agency and the Central
    Intelligence Agency provide an account as to what legal standard they use
    to monitor US citizens. 
       Another system, currently in the pipeline is EU's Enfopol, a
    specification that will provide European law enforcement officials with an
    electronic back door into the computer systems of Internet Service
    Providers and mobile telecommunications companies. 
       Furthermore, later this year, the EU plans to introduce new encryption
    (a technology that scrambles data so that it cannot be read by
    eavesdroppers)  legislation, which may affect people's right to exchange
    messages that cannot be read by law enforcement. 
       Indeed, Internet and electronic privacy will be one of the biggest
    issues affecting citizens in the next century. Unfortunately law makers in
    Ireland, Europe and the US are staggeringly e naive about the effects
    these new laws, systems and so-called specifications will have on their
       The problem is one of ignorance. Law makers often don't understand
    technology and don't look far enough into the future to see how Internet
    and wireless communications will touch virtually every aspect of our lives
    in the not too distant future. But why the concern? Police and
    intelligence services are only trying to catch terrorist, criminals and
    child pornographers. True, if they are to catch these people they need to
    be able to track their movements, ensure that they are not shifting large
    amounts of money into offshore bank accounts and nip their next deadly or
    grossly illegal plans in the bud.
       Surely, you couldn't object to that? Unless, of course, you would
    object to passing a law that would enable police go through your
    credit-card receipts without a court order, tap your telephone at will and
    make a list of every place you visited, and every person you talked to
    without proper judicial control. Because that is what these systems allow. 
       Increasingly people are buying goods and services on the Internet. This
    not only includes a novel from say, Amazon.com, but banking, share trading
    and even insurance services. Back-door access to mobile telephone records
    will not only provide access to conversations but pinpoint the location of
    the mobile phone and therefore its user. Furthermore, governments
    mistakenly believe that their judicial system will protect their citizens
    from abuses of these new methods of data collection and surveillance.
    However perhaps it's not just the local police force that should concern
    us, but the police force and intelligence agencies of foreign governments. 
       Take the Echelon system, for example, it was established under the
    UKUSA agreement by the US's National Security Agency, and Britain's
    General Communications Headquarters to monitor the communications of the
    eastern bloc countries. While Echelon was designed as a system to monitor
    spies, according to a recent report prepared for the European Parliament's
    Scientific and Technology Options Assessment Panel there is evidence that
    member-countries also use the Echelon system for industrial espionage. The
    report states that British intelligence routinely collects information
    such as "company plans, telexes, faxes, and transcribed phone calls," and
    that the **NSA** provides weekly reports to the US department of commerce. 
       The report recommends that Europe adopts strong encryption technology
    rather than restrict it and points out that it is the larger nations that
    have invested in spying activities, leaving smaller nations vulnerable. 
       While few could object to these systems to apprehend criminals there
    needs to be awareness of exactly what powers they give governments and law
    enforcement. There also needs to be a way to ensure that they are being
    used correctly. It has taken centuries to gain the right to privacy,
    surely we should not throw it away so readily. 
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