Sunday, 13 July 2008

Cyber-Investigations and human rights

To monitor the internet to detect (and deter?) crime seems a good idea at first sight. Yet objections are many:

  • practical objection: is it realistic to consider being able to control the internet? It's like wanting to monitor the mail correspondance of users throughout the world. Can we imagine the FBI or Europol controlling data held by post offices? Inachievable and therefore a pretence. I don't see how the physical world of letters could be much different from the cyberworld.
  • second practical objection: how on earth can you succesfully detect crime when faced with a mass of information? the old fashioned way of doing detective work (on the web understandibly) is a much more efficient than trying to cast a net so vast it would take centuries to find the problematic fish.
  • theoritical objection: again, parallels with the so-called physical world enlighten thoughts. Data "held" by post offices are private even when their contents are terrorist or criminal; why should data on the web not considered as private and thus submitted to the same regulations as for obtaining private correspondance? Where are the human rights?

And yet the FBI seriously considers asking the ISPs retention of data (23rd April 2008)

as well as Russia's authorities who would even go further by blocking traffic like China does (24th April 2008)

Similar problem with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (so federal law) agreed to let searches of laptop with no specific purposes that looking in the hard drive. Why should we set up conditions for the search of a house, but not the search of a computer when nowadays the computer is like a portable home with sometimes all the documents one needs? Where are the human rights of the accused here? Gone with the wind of fear of crime...

"Is This The Best Homeland Security Can Do In Defending Laptop Searches At The Border?" (TechDirt, 10 July 2008) (23rd April 2008) with an update for the Electronic Frontier Foundation asks for Congress to intervene (1 May 2008)

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