Patrice Riemens on Mon, 6 Mar 2000 20:43:54 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> UK: ISPs as wiretappers

See for the full text. Here's the
executive summary:

ISPs as wiretappers

ISPs are now classified as "public telecommunication systems". As are
mobile telephone providers, Net gateways, newservers, and, potentially,
operators of Web applications like Hotmail. This provides a new set of
burdens on even the smallest ISP, and may introduce a new level of
bureaucracy and liability for anyone seeking to offer any form of Internet
service. Additionally, employees of these companies are compelled to keep
any surveillance they conduct on their customers secret in perpetuity. We
believe this to be a dangerous extension of obligations on British Net
citizens, with no corresponding checks or balances on law enforcement. 

Interception Methods

Additionally, the Home Secretary has reserved the right to demand the
placing of specific devices to monitor ISP traffic with little
deliberation, and no guarantee that the nature of this monitoring will
ever be publicised. We'd like to see such impositions made public. 

Mass Surveillance

The bill clarifies the requirements for an interception warrant, but also
provides for Certificates, which are general permissions granted by the
Home Secretary in a set of situations that don't make sense on the global
Internet. In particular, the security services can now attempt to gather
information on all communications that travel across an international
boundary, without limit. We believe this affects everyone who uses the
Net, to an extent unwarranted by the requirements of law enforcement. 

Permanent Secrecy

Surveillance of communications, as before, is explicitly excluded from
being used in a court of law. While this ostensibly provides continuing
privacy for your e-mails (they won't be quoted in a court case), it also
means that if your communications are tapped, you will never know. 

Traffic Data

A wide group of government authorities are now allowed to collect
communications data - that's to say, everything about your Net sessions
*apart* from the contents of your messages. So, for instance, the Web
sites you visit or the full list of who you have contacted may be
collected by anyone from the local police to the security services, with
very little supervision. We think that collecting mass traffic data is
effectively watching your every movement online, and should have the same
safeguards as watching your home. 

Government Access to Keys

The government can still demand you hand over keys or plaintext, and can
still potentially gaol computer users for being unable to unlock their own
files. This tipping-off offence provides serious criminals with a
get-out-of-jail-quick escape, while still effectively criminalising the
widespread use of encryption by making the act of losing keys or
forgetting passwords a criminal offence. 

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