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Congressional Hearing About Data Retention Laws For Internet Companies
January 24, 2011 4:53 PM   Subscribe

"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 [Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee] ... 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. ... For now, the scope of any mandatory data retention law remains hazy. It could mean forcing companies to store data for two years about what Internet addresses are assigned to which customers (Comcast said in 2006 that it would be retaining those records for six months). Or it could be far more intrusive, sweeping in online service providers, and involve keeping track of e-mail and instant-messaging correspondence and what Web pages users visit. Some Democratic politicians have previously called for data retention laws to extend to domain name registries and Web hosting companies and even social-networking sites."
posted by ericb (45 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Across 'the pond':
"When adopting its data retention rules, the European Parliament required that communications providers in its 25 member countries--several of which had enacted their own data retention laws already--retain customer data for a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years. The Europe-wide requirement applies to a wide variety of 'traffic' and 'location' data, including the identities of the customers' correspondents; the date, time, and duration of phone calls, voice over Internet Protocol calls or e-mail messages; and the location of the device used for the communications. The 'content' of the communications is not supposed to be retained.

But last March, a German court declared the national data retention law to be unconstitutional."
posted by ericb at 4:56 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


No-one needs to know how much porn I'm looking at.

Really. No-one needs to know that in the slightest.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:57 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thank God the party of small government is in power.
posted by brundlefly at 5:00 PM on January 24, 2011 [46 favorites]


Thank God the party of small government is in power.

It is. They are requiring the companies to do the legwork, which means the consumer gets to pay for it through increased fees. The government does nothing, and therefore no extra taxes! Better yet, it helps police with their investigations.

THIS WILL STOP TERRORISTS! GOD BLESS AMERICA!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 5:03 PM on January 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


If the USA does this, it will create a big business opportunity for commercial proxy services (like Ipredator) in countries that don't have these laws (like Sweden). Of course the next step would be to outlaw foreign proxies.
posted by stbalbach at 5:11 PM on January 24, 2011


Just when I was ready to abandon the Democratic Party in disgust....
posted by orthogonality at 5:12 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Congresscritters told us they'd be focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, and jobs if they got elected. I guess now we know what kind of "jobs" they were talking about.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:17 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to be overly reductionist, but their commitment to making things worse really is something to behold.
posted by bicyclefish at 5:21 PM on January 24, 2011 [35 favorites]


Isn't this sort of "government interference in business" the type of thing that Republicans would typically avoid?
posted by jnnla at 5:22 PM on January 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Morbid Curiosity Leading Many Voters To Support Palin
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:24 PM on January 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


I can't wait until there's only one source of information. Hopefully it'll be Comcast or AT&T so they can just hand over all our private info without the need for pesky laws or procedures.

Fuck these guys. Really. They are scared little pussies who see danger and misdeeds behind every bush. A freethinking public is just one more dangerous security concern.

(And yet they are the first to proclaim how America is the beacon of freedom for the rest of the world.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:27 PM on January 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Does a foreign proxy really help you if your ISP is keeping copies of the packets you send there?
posted by kafziel at 5:27 PM on January 24, 2011


Thank God the party of small government is in power.

Isn't this sort of "government interference in business" the type of thing that Republicans would typically avoid?
"Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the free-market Cato Institute, says the push for legislation is an example of pro-regulatory Republicans. 'Republicans were put in power to limit the size and scope of the federal government,' Harper said. 'And they're working to grow the federal government, increase its intrusiveness, and I fail to see where the Fourth Amendment permits the government to require dragnet surveillance of Internet users.'"*
posted by ericb at 5:28 PM on January 24, 2011


Recall that one of the GOP talking points against Net Neutrality was that it was "a government takeover".

That's right:
- Forcing ISPs not to discriminate against traffic based on its source = government takeover
- "[K]eeping track of e-mail and instant-messaging correspondence and what Web pages users visit" without a warrant or even reasonable suspicion, for later use by police = 9/11 nevar forget these colors don't run don't be a commie
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 5:29 PM on January 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


James Sensenbrenner
Isn't Sensenbrenner the guy who proposed manditory reporting of marijuana use with jailtime for those who failed to report, along with decade long sentences for casual consumption?

Oh, Yes he was. Good times. Also he was a supporter of Net Neutrality the last time the republicans had a majority.
posted by delmoi at 5:31 PM on January 24, 2011


@ericb -Then in this case I actually agree with someone from the Cato Institute. It is a strange day.
posted by jnnla at 5:32 PM on January 24, 2011


Fuck these guys, seriously.

I'm so tired these fuckheads wrapping themselves in the banner of "Government Go Home," and then turning around to do shit like this. Go away. Seriously, go away.

"If you have nothing to hide, don't be worried." Bullshit.

God, this makes me so angry, all I can do is grit my teeth and pound at my keyboard.
posted by SNWidget at 5:37 PM on January 24, 2011


Then in this case I actually agree with someone from the Cato Institute. It is a strange day.

It's like a planetary alignment - it happens once every hundred years and is usually predicted by ancient, apocalyptic calendars.
posted by SNWidget at 5:38 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Right. Also:
- Forcing health insurers not to drop you when you get sick, or decline coverage for pre-existing conditions = government takeover

- Forcing ISP's to track your every move = freedom
posted by jetsetsc at 5:51 PM on January 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Thank God the party of small government is in power.

They hate us for our freedoms.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:58 PM on January 24, 2011 [4 favorites]



So would there be a record of it when one goes to the library to learn about making bombs? I mean what is good for the net should be good for the library. Right?
(notice the care taken in using 'one' rather than 'I')
posted by notreally at 5:59 PM on January 24, 2011


The one saving grace of the extension of CALEA to web traffic--a shitty law and a shitty extension--was that nobody retained the data. Oh well.
posted by immlass at 6:01 PM on January 24, 2011


Oh fuck Jim Sensenbrenner with a big rubber fist and post it on the internet so Larry Craig can fap to it. I'm so tired of him (I live in his district).
posted by MikeMc at 6:03 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, no problem. I am old and so I don't give a rat's ass what they see, keep, hold, view...if they would rather look at what I have done then look at their own shit on their puters, so be it.
posted by Postroad at 6:06 PM on January 24, 2011


MMm perhaps they should start by automatically disclosing all material congressional computers are used to access, and automatically releasing all congressional emails.
posted by edgeways at 6:17 PM on January 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'd like to show them where they can stick their series of tubes.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:17 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, the Republican are like...openly evil? And people vote for them?

American politics is confusing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:21 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Republicans. Sorry about that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:21 PM on January 24, 2011


Although, as it happens, the current Australian Government (Labour) are supposed to be the 'left' party (although they are very centerist and, in some areas, conservative), and they have recently been considering a similar policy.

They are keeping development very quiet, since everyone (i.e., the public) hates it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:25 PM on January 24, 2011


i have no problem with govt. following where I go to on the internet, only about 6 web-sites every day for over 4 hours, Metafilter,Free Slots, Facebook, E Bay, GMX my email and ESPN sports, that's about all, for a 66 old disabled, retired wheel-chair user in California. Maybe not all readers of this post feel the same way, LOL to them!
posted by tustinrick at 6:25 PM on January 24, 2011


These people don't understand the value of data. Data is only useful if it can be analyzed, and the sheer volume of this means that it can't. Furthermore, many web sites (and other Internet services) are encrypted. Terabytes upon terabytes of what is essentially line noise? Fantastic!

It's as if the governing party were made up of paranoid grandmas.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:49 PM on January 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


So I'm curious. Are there still actually any Republican supporters here? Is there one person reading this who can explain to me how the Republicans do this sort of thing over and over again and get away with it without a murmur from their "base"?

It really makes me think that the only thing the R's want is to piss off rational people - that they just use these buzzwords and then do much as they please.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:52 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


stbalbach writes "If the USA does this, it will create a big business opportunity for commercial proxy services (like Ipredator) in countries that don't have these laws (like Sweden). Of course the next step would be to outlaw foreign proxies."

No need to go to Sweden, Canada is right next door.

kafziel writes "Does a foreign proxy really help you if your ISP is keeping copies of the packets you send there?"

An encrypted tunnel is still vulnerable to traffic analysis but the problem is much harder. And certain kinds of fishing becomes very difficult.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 PM on January 24, 2011


> Data is only useful if it can be analyzed, and the sheer volume of this means that it can't.

Not so!

Let's overestimate consistently to get an upper bound.

Suppose everything is monitored by Big Uncle Sam. Suppose there are a billion internet users, each visiting a thousand web pages a day and each URL is 100 bytes. That's 100 terabytes of data a day raw data (very uncompressed indeed) or about 40 petabytes of data a year. Let's suppose we want 25-year data retention, that's a cool exabyte of data, uncompressed... which is a million one terabyte drives, or about $50 million in raw data storage ("just disk drives, no chassis").

Now, you need to replicate your drives quite heavily, but this is more than compensated for by the fact that even the most moronic compression scheme would save you an order of magnitude of this data storage with only a marginal computational overhead.

So you need $50 million in hard drives, another $200 million in computers to hold those drives.

Now multiply this all by 10 to get these computers sitting in a hard drive in a data center somewhere hooked to a network. So we're talking $2.5 billion dollars.

Now this is still all dumb hardware unless you get some smarts. The real problem you'll have is that many talented engineers are either quite socialist or even more likely libertarian and would refuse to work on your evil project, but on the other hand, this is actually not rocket science. This is 2011 and people know how to write search engines - and even before you had a search engine, you could get fascinating reports out of this fairly quickly just using a Map/Reduce and a few thousand machines.

So double it to pay for these people. Then double it again because I missed most of the problem, no doubt, and then again. $20 billion. And that's complete data, on one billion obsessive internet users, for 25 years.

Could this really be done?

An awful lot of people (like me) have "graduated" from Google, Yahoo and other such places, and more or less know how to do this - and you'd have the advantage of a captive audience that's satisfied with much slower response times, Google's looking to always get response times less than 100ms (a tenth of a second) but if you could get simple queries back in 10 seconds every time, or if you could answer most complex report-sized queries in hours, I think it'd be a roaring success

The data set is large, but most certainly not unprecedented. Large physics projects like the Large Hadron Collider collect comparable data sizes, with the additional wrinkle that you need to have great domain-specific knowledge to simply understand the data itself - whereas the data you'd be collecting in this "human internome" project is people visiting web pages, which is something that all programmers understand.

Programmers are very good at this sort of thing. If it were somehow set up as a competition like the Netflix prize, supposing for example that you gave the data I propose above to competing groups of engineers and said, "Somewhere there's a terrorist planning to make an anthrax attack, identify the ten most likely individuals to have done this," I'll bet that if there really were an anthrax maker in the sample data he'd appear on most of the lists.

There are various reasons that the government wouldn't structurally be able to pull this off, thank Goodness...but I think we'll leave it at that, don't want to give people ideas!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:49 PM on January 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


Now multiply this all by 10 to get these computers sitting in a hard drive in a data center somewhere hooked to a network. So we're talking $2.5 billion dollars.

NSA To Build $1.5 Billion Cybersecurity Data Center.

Estimated like a pro, within an order of magnitude. Maybe this should be a new interview question at Google.

Sensenbrenner was a major architect of the Patriot Act. I believe he is the one taking a photo of the signing of the Patriot Act. Saving that one for the scrapbook.
posted by formless at 8:19 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's overestimate consistently to get an upper bound.

Dude, you nailed it. This isn't hard. In a year, it'll be easier. In three years, it'll be trivial.
posted by eriko at 8:41 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't Sensenbrenner the guy who...
If it was terrible, yes it was probably him. Almost every time I read about a new bill that's been introduced and think "Holy Lord, what hath ye wrought?"/"WTF is this terrible shit?", his name is on it. It's always a nice reminder of why "fuck politics". When I turned 18, I was in his district. I was an idealistic, politically-interested debater that thought things like rationality and reasoned argument were the basis of governance, so he did a good job of shitting on that idea. I wrote him at least 4-5 times, and he or an assistant of his always "respectfully disagreed" and re-iterated their position as the complete opposite of mine without offering any real reasoning. Fuck Politics.

I frequently feel like tracking him down and throwing jujubes at him while taunting him with "Hey. Hey Jimmy. YOU SUCK." I don't expect it to achieve anything except the satisfaction of knowing that perhaps, if only for a day, I've inconvenienced him as much as he's inconvenienced, if not downright fucked-over, millions of people in this country.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:02 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


That NSA cyber-security installation is fucking insane. What a waste of money in a time when there are families that are going without food and transportation.

It's fucking bitterly cold outside and the US government is burning money.
posted by kuatto at 8:27 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


i have no problem with govt. following where I go to on the internet, only about 6 web-sites every day for over 4 hours, Metafilter,Free Slots, Facebook, E Bay, GMX my email and ESPN sports, that's about all, for a 66 old disabled, retired wheel-chair user in California. Maybe not all readers of this post feel the same way, LOL to them!

Can’t decide if this is real or a very clever troll.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:45 AM on January 25, 2011


Judging by his previous posts (and his relationship to User #1), I'm going with real.
posted by rollbiz at 9:26 AM on January 25, 2011


And hey... I'd be interested to see what part of the Constitution is referenced as justification for the bill. or have the republicans already dropped and ignored that little grandstanding wanking headstand act?
posted by edgeways at 9:44 AM on January 25, 2011


Is there one person reading this who can explain to me how the Republicans do this sort of thing over and over again and get away with it without a murmur from their "base"?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:52 PM on January 24


I don't know - my Republican friends are pretty annoyed by this sort of thing.

But they do say it's for fighting internet child pornography. So if you're against the government having access to a log of everything you've looked at and done online, then you must like to diddle children.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:02 PM on January 25, 2011


Does a foreign proxy really help you if your ISP is keeping copies of the packets you send there?

It's hard to give a full answer to this without knowing what the panel's recommendations are, but let's assume that they mandate preservation of the origin and destination information (which is mentioned a couple times and pretty simple to collect).

In this case, presuming all of your traffic is properly forwarded through an encrypted VPN tunnel to a foreign proxy server, the information collected about you by your ISP would be your IP address and the IP address of the foreign proxy. Additionally, if you were connecting to a USA server, their ISP would record the proxy's IP address and the IP address of the server it was connecting to. In this case, using the proxy would make it difficult to associate your outgoing connection with the incoming connection to the server.

As Mithrael mentioned, if someone was actively capturing your network traffic, they may be able to determine some information about the type of content being transferred over the VPN tunnel, even if they could not view that content directly. It is my understanding that this sort of eavesdropping requires a court order of some sort or a corrupt government that does not mind violating our constitution...*cough*
posted by nTeleKy at 1:15 PM on January 25, 2011


https://www.torproject.org/donate
posted by IanMorr at 1:15 PM on January 25, 2011


House Seeks Details On Net Tracking Plan -- "Republicans and Democrats push Justice Department for more on what it wants from mandatory data retention, with committee chairman describing Internet as 'virtual playground for sex predators.'"
posted by ericb at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2011


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