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FW: [INFO] Internet Privacy: Reflections on Europe in the Digital Age
>this is probably obvious to many of you, but it is still interesting and
>sobering to see the issue spelled out all in one place....
>>Forwarded-by: Phil Agre <[email protected]>
>>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
>> 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
>> 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
>> The International Electronic Rights Server
>> The Electronic Privacy Information Center
>> 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.