[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

FW: [INFO] Internet Privacy: Reflections on Europe in the Digital Age

>-----Original Message-----
>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
>>  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.