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ISPs' information on users

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Date: Tue, 24 Sep 1996 08:57:01 -0400
To: [email protected]
From: Rodney Thayer <[email protected]>
Subject: ISPs' information on users
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Reply-To: Rodney Thayer <[email protected]>

Something to think about before any of us start selling Ketchup on-line via

>Date: Sun, 22 Sep 1996 23:53:02 -0400
>From: [email protected] (Darius Thabit)
>Subject: ISPs' information on users

>Date: Sun, 22 Sep 1996 01:18:59 -0700 (PDT)
>From: Phil Agre <[email protected]>
>This message was forwarded through the Red Rock Eater News Service (RRE).
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>Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 19:16:19 +0200
>From: [email protected] (Steven Carlson)
>To: [email protected]
>Subject: (HOL-A) It's a Brave Old World
>  ------------------------------
>  Brave Old World:
>  Reflections on Europe in the Digital Age
>  by Steven Carlson; 20 Sep 1996
>  ------------------------------
>  ** So Much Fuss About A Bottle Of Ketchup
>  Hungarian police recently sent a fax around to the local Internet
>  service providers (ISPs) asking them to provide lists of their users
>  in Esztergom, a small town outside of Budapest. It seems somebody
>  had planted a bomb in a bottle of ketchup. Since everyone knows you
>  can download bomb-making instructions from the Internet, the police
>  figured they should investigate the local users. No, I'm not making
>  this up.
>  What's more, nearly every local ISP gave the police this information.
>  Fortunately my company has no users in Esztergom and so that's what we
>  told the police. We got off lucky. Believe me, as much as might want
>  to make a stand for privacy of information my company is NOT eager to
>  do battle with the Hungarian authorities.
>  But that's what it might take. Because if the Hungarian police really
>  understood the Internet they could have asked for even more. For
>  example, it would only take a few keystrokes to forward a users' mail
>  to the authorities. The police might also have asked for old email,
>  since many ISPs back this up routinely.
>  But that's not all. Some ISPs run caching servers, machines that store
>  frequently-viewed webpages so that users access them locally rather
>  than across the net. An ISP's caching server could give the police a
>  profile of what web pages the users have been browsing.
>  I'm not trying to scare anyone. My point is that sharing information
>  on the Internet is a two-way street. Computers keep extensive records.
>  Using the Internet often means you leave a trail behind you. This is
>  part of life in the digital age.
>  This "electronic trail" is not unique to the Internet. Every time you
>  use a credit card you create a record in several computers. Other
>  computers may be storing information about you such as your medical
>  history, driving record, tax filings and so on. The more we rely on
>  computers to manage our affairs, the more information that may be "out
>  there." This means citizens in the digital age should know their
>  rights.
>  Many governments already have laws to protect private information. For
>  example, the US has many laws restricting access to sensitive
>  information such as medical and credit records. You might be surprised
>  to know Hungary passed a law in 1991 to prevent misuse of information
>  associated with the national identity card.
>  Yet the growth of new technologies is outpacing legislation. For
>  example, Holland and other countries are experimenting with "smart
>  road" systems that can identify the licence number of a moving car for
>  purposes of toll collection. Cellular phones and satellite navigation
>  systems can report the locations of their users. It's not difficult to
>  imagine how these and other technologies could be abused.
>  Of course, now you know that even your local Internet provider has
>  access to some rather sensitive information about you. This leads me
>  to ask: what sort of service is your Internet provider actually
>  offering?
>  When it comes down to it, your ISP is like your doctor, your lawyer,
>  your accountant or your psychiatrist. Each of these professionals
>  deals with your data; each profession is governed by a code of ethics,
>  written or implicit. Moreover these limits are codified in law. If
>  your accountant allowed your competitors to read the company books,
>  you could take him to court.
>  Similarly, your Internet provider has an implicit duty to protect the
>  privacy of your communication. Most professionals in my industry
>  recognize this. I know most of the people working in Hungarian
>  Internet and I doubt very much that they are reading your mail or
>  mine. But they don't know where they stand in the eyes of the law.
>  Internet professionals should certainly assist the police in a
>  legitimate investigation. But should every Internet user in Esztergom
>  be investigated just because they could (theoretically) find
>  bomb-making information on the Internet?
>  To hammer that point home a local Internet-based magazine has
>  published, in Hungarian, complete bomb-making instructions:
>  <http://www.idg.hu/internetto/cyber/special/dinamit.htm>. In other
>  words, if you've read this far you may be the subject of a future
>  investigation. Have a nice day!
>  ** Further Links:
>  The Electronic Frontier Foundation
>  <http://www.eff.org>
>  The International Electronic Rights Server
>  <http://www.privacy.org>
>  The Electronic Privacy Information Center
>  <http://www.epic.org>
>  ----------------------------------------------------
>  Copyright (c) 1996. Permission granted to redistribute this article in
>  electronic form for non-profit purposes only. My byline and this message
>  must remain intact. Contact me <[email protected]> for reprint rights.

--- from Rodney Thayer <[email protected]> +1 617 332 7292 ---

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Robert Hettinga ([email protected])
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