Friday, January 28, 2011

ISP Data Retention Doesn't Aid Crime Prosecution

Matthew J. Schwartz writes on InformationWeek:

Should Internet service providers be required to retain more data transferred over their networks to aid law enforcement investigations?

That was the precise request made Tuesday by a senior Department of Justice official at a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security hearing.

But according to a new study from German privacy rights group AK Vorrat, based on an analysis of crime data from Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (known in Germany as the BKA), "data retention, while in force, did not make the prosecution of serious crime any more effective."

When it comes to securing, regulating, or policing the Internet, the report highlights that while some common-sense approaches -- such as data retention, or mandating that service providers block child pornography sites outright -- may look good on paper, in practice such restrictions may be ineffective or even produce unintended results.

More here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Day Part of the Internet Died: Egypt Goes Dark

An AP newswire article by Jordan Robertson, via The San Francisco Chronicle, reports:

About a half-hour past midnight Friday morning in Egypt, the Internet went dead.

Almost simultaneously, the handful of companies that pipe the Internet into and out of Egypt went dark as protesters were gearing up for a fresh round of demonstrations calling for the end of President Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule, experts said.

Egypt has apparently done what many technologists thought was unthinkable for any country with a major Internet economy: It unplugged itself entirely from the Internet to try and silence dissent.

Experts say it's unlikely that what's happened in Egypt could happen in the United States because the U.S. has numerous Internet providers and ways of connecting to the Internet. Coordinating a simultaneous shutdown would be a massive undertaking.

More here.

Reports: Internet Disruptions Hit Egypt

Elinor Mills writes on C|Net News:

Amid a third day of anti-government protests, Internet outages and disruptions were reported today in Egypt, according to reports.

Facebook and Twitter confirmed the reports for their sites.

"We are aware of reports of disruption to service and have seen a drop in traffic from Egypt this morning," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "You may want to visit, a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University that offers insight into what users around the world are experiencing in terms of web accessibility."

According to, there were 459 reports of inaccessible sites in Egypt and 621 reports of accessible sites.

Twitter's Global PR account reported on the site that: "Egypt continues to block Twitter & has greatly diminished traffic. However, some users are using apps/proxies to successfully tweet."

Meanwhile, there were numerous reports of outages around the Web.

More here.

See also:

- ferg

Alleged 'Scareware' Vendors to Pay $8.2 Million to FTC

Grant Gross writes on ComputerWorld:

The operator of an alleged "scareware" scheme, using deceptive advertising to trick Internet users into buying software to fix their supposedly infected computers, will pay the U.S. Federal Trade Commission $8.2 million to settle a complaint brought by the agency, the FTC said.

Marc D'Souza and his father, Maurice D'Souza, will give up the money in the settlement, announced Thursday by the FTC. Marc D'Souza was one of the key participants in a group of businesses that delivered online advertisements falsely claiming that the viewers' computers were infected with malicious software, the FTC said in a press release.

The FTC will use money from the settlement to reimburse customers who purchased software from the defendants, the agency said.

The defendants in the case, doing business under several company names including Innovative Marketing and ByteHosting Internet Services, falsely claimed that scans had detected viruses, spyware and illegal pornography on consumers' computers, the FTC said. The defendants sold more than 1 million software products, with names such as Winfixer, Drive Cleaner and Antivirus XP, to remove the malware the bogus scans had supposedly detected, the agency added.

More here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mark Fiore: CorporateLand

More Mark Fiore brilliance.

Via The San Francisco Chronicle.

- ferg

Google Comes Under Fire for 'Secret' Relationship with NSA

Grant Gross writes on PC World:

Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group largely focused in recent years on Google's privacy practices, has called on a congressional investigation into the Internet giant's "cozy" relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration.

In a letter sent Monday, Consumer Watchdog asked Representative Darrell Issa, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to investigate the relationship between Google and several government agencies.

The group asked Issa to investigate contracts at several U.S. agencies for Google technology and services, the "secretive" relationship between Google and the U.S. National Security Agency, and the company's use of a U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration airfield in California.

Federal agencies have also taken "insufficient" action in response to revelations last year that Google Street View cars were collecting data from open Wi-Fi connections they passed, Consumer Watchdog said in the letter.

"We believe Google has inappropriately benefited from close ties to the administration," the letter said. "Google is most consumers' gateway to the Internet. Nonetheless, it should not get special treatment and access because of a special relationship with the administration."

More here.

Report: ISPs Are the New Secret Police

Jennifer Baker writes on PC World:

More and more European Union member states are delegating online policing to private companies and Internet service providers, according to a report released Wednesday.

Where law enforcement agencies would traditionally have tackled the problem of illegal online content, more powers are being given to ISPs in the name of industry self-regulation, according to a study by the organization European Digital Rights (EDRI). That trend is likely to become stronger with increasing "extra-judicial sanctions" against consumers, EDRI said.

Proposed legislation and "non-binding guidelines" have left intermediaries in a precarious position, unsure whether they are liable for the actions of consumers over their networks. So-called "three strikes" laws, under which alleged copyright infringers receive three warnings before their Internet connection is cut off, put the onus on Internet service providers to police customers. Such laws currently appear in some form in French, Irish and U.K. legislation, where they have met with anger from ISPs. In France, the law can impose a fine and a one-year Internet connection suspension. The U.K.'s Digital Economy Act, adopted last year, provoked concern from the country's two largest ISPs, BT and TalkTalk.

International trade agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and bilateral trade agreements the E.U. has signed with India and South Korea, all leave the door open for intermediary liability.

More here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

GOP Pushing for ISPs to Record User Data

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

The House Republicans' first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.

A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users' activities for later review by police.

One focus will be on reviving a dormant proposal for data retention that would require companies to store Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for two years, CNET has learned.

Tomorrow's data retention hearing is juxtaposed against the recent trend to protect Internet users' privacy by storing less data. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission called for "limited retention" of user data on privacy grounds, and in the last 24 hours, both Mozilla and Google have announced do-not-track technology.

A Judiciary committee aide provided a statement this afternoon saying "the purpose of this hearing is to examine the need for retention of certain data by Internet service providers to facilitate law enforcement investigations of Internet child pornography and other Internet crimes," but declined to elaborate.

More here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Passing; Jack LaLanne

 Jack LaLanne
September 26, 1914 - January 23, 2011