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Re: ISPs' information on users

> On a more serious note, perhaps legal experts here could comment on
> something I've been wondering about. Could ISPs in the UlS. be compelled to
> report on the browsing and net surfing habits of their customer base?
> To make this clear, I don't mean in a specific criminal case, where the
> records are searchable under a warrant. I mean a blanket order that all
> ISPs compile and forward records.

Lets get some of the cypherpunk legal types to comment on the
following idea which is probably completely wrong:

It is probably illegal for the ISP to keep such records in the first

When I open a link to a remote WEB page or use FTP to retrieve
a remote file, the software on my computer first forms a network
connection between a program on my local computer and a remote
"server" program at the remote site. 
The ISP provides hardware and software "in the middle" that allows
this connection to take place. After this connection is established,
the connection itself is used to negotiate the precise data I want (i.e.
the filename in the case of FTP or the non-site portion of the URL in
the case of the WEB). In order for the ISP to keep records of my 
browsing, it would have to snoop on this connection. But the connection
is an electronic communication within the meaning of the Electronic
communications privacy act (ECPA). Thus it is not legal for the ISP
to keep such information. Thus the ISP can not report on the
browsing habits and net surfing habits of its user base by complying
with the law and never keeping the records in the first place. Perhaps
the above does not apply to the site name of the connections.

OK, cypherpunk legal types, tell me if I got the above wrong?

Paul Elliott                                  Telephone: 1-713-781-4543
[email protected]              Address:   3987 South Gessner #224
                                              Houston Texas 77063