Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy The Internet United States Your Rights Online

DARPA Funds Internet Tracking Scheme 256

Posted by timothy
from the weapons-related-program-activities dept.
Lifewish writes "The BBC is reporting that company MetaCarta is receiving DARPA cash to design a new system for tracking individuals based on their electronic presence. One company official is quoted as saying that 'The government and international security agencies have a desire to find, track and sometimes arrest people. Our system can be used to find them across the globe.' If you ever wondered where all that information the U.S. is collecting ended up..."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

DARPA Funds Internet Tracking Scheme

Comments Filter:
  • by Samuel Duncan (737527) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:33AM (#8179321) Journal
    don't have anything to worry.
    This will make our country more secure and safer from terrorism.
    Furthermore all American pariotic parties are joined in this effort to fight terrorism - even Howard Dean is supporting personal identification schemes.
    And remember we are at war - the war against terrorism. And in a war everybody has do to his share to ensure the victory of the forces of the free world. If that means that I have to give up some privacy, then I'll do my share gladly.
    At WWII we had to make much larger sacrifices to save the free world and democracy.
  • by andih8u (639841) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:33AM (#8179324)
    I don't really see how advantageous this system would be. They say it scans documents a user looks at to get references to geographic locations, but how effective can this be? "Hey, Osama, quit checking weather bug, you know the US has that new MetaCarta system." Normally an ISP is more than happy to hand over your info to the government, so what is this good for?
  • Hrmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by acehole (174372) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:34AM (#8179328) Homepage
    obviously the echelon project isnt enough or probably not suited for internet tracking.

  • by shoppa (464619) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:35AM (#8179337)
    Others get worried by all these government contractors who are making big bucks by selling privacy-invading tools to Uncle Sam.

    But I don't. Why? Because 95% of all government software projects end up either being outright failures or not useful. (You'd be surprised how many contractors know that they're meeting the requirement specification but know that the result won't be useful to anyone.)

    Now, I do not like the fact that my government is wasting money on software that doesn't help make me any safer. We have to do something about that, this is the real lossage.

  • Tinfoil hat time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamGarageGuy 2 (687655) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:38AM (#8179365) Journal
    Our society as a whole is allowing this infringment upon us. There is nobody to blame but ourselves. This attack on our freedom is pushed by the people that scream "what about the children" in attempts to save us from ourselves. If there was a big enough uproar about this happening it could be stopped, but unfortunately anybody that stands up to this is shouted down with threats of wanting to aid terrorists and kill babies and such. The old adage comes to mind, the way for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.

    I am curious to see if there will ever be a call to arms from the freedom loving americans that fund the government that creates these programs.

  • by kemapa (733992) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:38AM (#8179368) Journal
    Criminals would just find a way around the whole system, while honest people would be the ones tracked. Just like guns... if you create a law eliminating guns the criminals will still get them illegally, while regular citizens won't.
  • Use of technology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by canfirman (697952) <pdavi25.yahoo@ca> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:40AM (#8179381)
    There are a few quotes from the article that are of interest:

    Search results appear as points on a map instead of as a list of documents. The company says this information can be used, for example, to track patterns of criminal activity and identify spots of intensity.

    Just wait. Businesses will be requiring this data for "demographics". The RIAA can search for those who talk about "downloading music". Police can use it to track those who distribute kiddie porn. (Uh oh! I just used "kiddie porn" with my name! They'll be after me next!)

    The point is that anyone can say the data will be used for "tracking criminals", but we all know that will not be the case. Heck, the "Patriot Act" was supposed to combat terrorism, but we all know of the abuses of it. IMHO, this software will do more harm than good (unless you're the one collecting the data).

    PS: Since September 11, US security agencies have increasingly turned to technology to help them process website postings, internet chat and e-mail traffic....and still no sign of Osama Bin Laden.

  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corebreech (469871) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:42AM (#8179398) Journal
    It's not going to help in tracking down kidnapped children, not unless the kidnapper lets them go to the mall to use their parents' VISA card or log on to check his/her mail.

    And only stupid terrorists are likewise going to leave a trail of electronic crumbs to track. Yeah, you could argue that stupid terrorists are worth nabbing, but clearly whomever was responsible for 9/11 wasn't stupid, nor will the individual(s) responsible for the first nuclear detonation on American soil be stupid.

    No, if anything, this system will actually increase the amount of criminal activity, whether terrorism or kidnapping, or crimes in between. It only serves to aggregrate power from the many onto the very few, which means more corruption and less representative government, which in turn means more disillusionment, apathy and frustration.
  • Re:no shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:43AM (#8179405)
    that's because people the USA do NOT care. It's sad actually.

    People routinely fork over their SSNs, DOB, phone number (especially to pizza outlets, delivery places, etc. I go and pick up my food so that I don't have to have a "call back" number they can store).

    How about Papa Johns storing MULTIPLE credit card numbers on file under your phone number? It makes it easy to get your pizza without doing any work but do you trust Papa Johns with that info?

    Scary.
  • Re:no shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rm007 (616365) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:44AM (#8179414) Journal
    In places like Germany, privacy invasion is a much harder scheme to run with. People fight it tooth and nail.

    One of the differences between Europe (especially Germany) is that their views on such things as privacy have been formed in the context of direct recent (in terms of living memory of the politically active population of the past 50 years) experience of totalitarian government and/or occupation. Perhaps some Americans are more willing to trade off security for liberty because they can't conceive of what the loss of liberty means. If you let it go a bit at a time, you do not notice it. If it gets take away all at once, you do.
  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle@hotm ... com minus author> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:46AM (#8179429) Homepage
    nor will the individual(s) responsible for the first nuclear detonation on American soil be stupid.

    Indeed, and the detonations in the desert in the American west were conducted by the best and brightest of their time...

    Oh, you meant the first one in a place the government DIDN'T select....

  • by houghi (78078) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:49AM (#8179448)
    Others get worried by all these government contractors who are making big bucks by selling privacy-invading tools to Uncle Sam.

    But I don't. Why? Because 95% of all government software projects end up either being outright failures or not useful.


    This means that 5% is not a failure and it will be 'Usefull' for the governement. If the tool is there to invade the privacy, it will only take time before it will be abused. At this moment it will be used to find the guilty. At some point it will be used to find the inocent and when you are not on that list, you will be guilty.

    This already happens when they did a DNS test of a complete village (UK? France? Belgium? Sorry I forgot where).

    I personaly do not mind so much the money that is wasted. If done correctly, it flows back into the economy. I do mind the fact that anything I say or do can be used against me, even when I am not arrested or under investigation. At this moment it still is that you are OK when you do nothing wrong. Soon the time will come you will have to prove that you did nothing wrong. The way the governement is looking at it: you are guilty unless proven inocent. What other reason is there to track what everybody is doing?
  • by jefeweiss (628594) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:51AM (#8179469)

    A lot of these new programs aren't actually operated by the government. That's because the government isn't allowed to do some of these things by law. They hire private companies because private companies can do whatever the hell they want. This isn't the only company working on projects that are similar to this. Slashdot's headlines since TIA went down in flames are full of them.

    The things is, this is nothing new. I had seen proposals for commercial versions of this for a long time. Cell phones that advertise for businesses that you happen to be near, in car navigation systems that advertise for restaurants you are driving by. I would be very surprised if credit card companies haven't been selling all kinds of information to marketing agencies, as well as other financial companies. I tend to agree with people that say the US sold it's right to privacy a long time ago for easy credit. The only right we may be able to claim is transparency to see what happens to our data, and I don't see anyone pushing for that. David Brin wrote an interesting book called The Transparent Society where he explored transparency as an alternative to privacy. I'm really getting tired of people bitching about the government invading our privacy when the government is 30 years behind the private sector. It's not like anyone is using this information with our best interests at heart, unless you think getting more advertising is neat.

  • Try this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:57AM (#8179509)
    Really simple example. I send an email to my buddy saying "I'll meet you at the Burger Hut at 11:00am". Presumably, their software would identify "Burger Hut", look up it's address and be able to plot that on a map. If I sent another email at 12:45 to a buddy of mine, you could look at the ip I sent it from. If it's my work ip, then there is a reasonable probability that I'm at work (yes I know, telecomuting and other technologies doesn't make this 100%, but for many it's a damn close guess), so at 12:45, one can guess that I'm at the office. I use my CC at the grocery store, the location of the grocery store is then tracked.

    Put all these things together and you get a spatial picture of me. This is simply another way of looking at the data. From this you can more easily discern patterns. A more powerful example is if in another email I mentioned that I ate lunch with Osama, you could correlate the fact that I was at the burger hut around lunch time, and therefore there was a good possibility that Osama was there too.
  • by kinnell (607819) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @09:59AM (#8179518)
    this software will do more harm than good

    I thinks this misses the point. The software is just a visualisation tool. Nobody should be up in arms about this software, because it is not a threat to your civil liberties. The real threat is when government agencies are allowed to accumulate and use the necessary information about private citizens in the first place. Also, for innocent people, the real threat is not that they can be located, it is that they can be picked out of data warehouses using search terms which incorrectly label them as "subversive" or "potential terrorist".

  • by Lord of Ironhand (456015) <arjen@xyx.nl> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:03AM (#8179543) Homepage
    Although I agree that he wasn't trolling, I do grow tired of the "good people have nothing to worry about" argument.

    If a government knows everything about any citizen at any time, people in that government can abuse that information. Many people desire power over others, and the more power someone in a government position has, the more people will try to obtain such a position for the sake of power. Law abiding citizens do have something to worry about.

  • by swb (14022) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:05AM (#8179551)
    Since Germans don't have unlimited freedom of political expression, I wonder how many Americans would give up theirs and accept the yoke of censorship for privacy?

    As much as I want privacy, I have a hard time feeling like I'm a victim of lack of privacy. I'm more annoyed on a practical every day basis with the nosy neighbors than I am with US Bank's selling my credit card purchase information or Tivo's aggregation of my viewing habits.

    I'm actually much more concerned about the government's ability and willingness to repress political speech than I am whether some database knows I bought a couple of cans of jock itch spray with my credit card.
  • Re:no shit. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:08AM (#8179571) Journal
    What's Papa Johns gonna do?

    Like anyone who isn't an idiot, I watch my statements closely, first sign of a false charge, I'd report it to the card issuer and police, and if it was some clerk at Papa Johns, they'd be in cuffs inside of a day.. Lifting customers credit cards is probably the stupidest crime there is, and the easiest to track.

    As for caring if Papa Johns "tracks" me, I dont. I really dont care who knows that I like bacon, pineapple and tomato on my pizzas.

    As for my address and phone number, there's this crazy database called a phone book that lists all of that information.
  • Apathy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:13AM (#8179603) Journal
    The problem is that you have to work very hard at freedom and democracy et al. The natural ground state for human society is totalitarian dictatorship, and free and open societies are really exceptional cases.

    People would much rather be safe than free, by and large. Most people will gladly give up all their important freedoms if it means they have safety (or just the illusion of it). People generally prefer to follow the path of least resistance too - another factor that works against freedom since you must work at staying free.

    Expect more of these schemes to come into action with the majority of the public either not caring (path of least resistance) or just accepting (safety over freedom) the changes. If we want to make sure these schemes don't keep adding up, bit by bit, be prepared for an uphill struggle.
  • Re:no shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:17AM (#8179619) Homepage Journal
    One of the differences between Europe (especially Germany) is that their views on such things as privacy have been formed in the context of direct recent (in terms of living memory of the politically active population of the past 50 years) experience of totalitarian government and/or occupation.

    This is true, but with a small caveat. If you read this book [databasenation.com] (highly recommended), you'll note that US researchers were the first to blow the whistle, in the '60s if I remember well, about the risks of database tracking individuals and collecting way too much info about citizens.

    The US governement did nothing about this, but Western European (Eastern Europe is something else) governments did, and created several tough laws designed to protect privacy. Whether this was due to the history of Europe, and, as you mention, to the memories of the Nazi regime is open for debate.

    This being said, these European privacy laws are being undermined by the US government as we speak. The first step was, of course, to require European airlines to communicate information about their passengers to US authorities.
  • Bleh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:17AM (#8179620) Journal
    You can't stop people from gathering information. If I want to get out a spiral notebook and a pencil and start writing down every liscense plate number I see and descriptions of the drivers, I can.

    What's needed is systems in place to ensure that the information is not abused, and punishments for abuse.

    Like the Do Not Call list. I was bombarded with telemarketers before it went into affect (you need only buy a home to get every mortgage agent in the universe to start calling). Now they've completely stopped. Do I care that people can go find out how much I owe on my mortgage? Not really.
  • by Lord of Ironhand (456015) <arjen@xyx.nl> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:18AM (#8179626) Homepage
    Exactly. I think reading 1984 should be strongly encouraged by schools everywhere. (though it probably won't happen in the US because people might just notice the parallels between the War on Terror and the "War is Peace" philosophy).

    It is essential for people to understand (not just "learn") why privacy is essential to safety.

  • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:20AM (#8179643) Homepage Journal

    The first thing I thought of when I saw this is "wow - the Bad Guys could have a field day with this". Imagine - you find yourself on the wrong end of a PI or something, you have skills, you turn the tables and hunt this guy instead. Somebody gaining a level of control with this type of system would pose an unprecendted threat (on the offchance the stupid thing acutally worked).

    Better yet, Kevin Mitnick's "two computer" scheme came to mind where he was intentionally leading his pursuers at the FBI around by the nose so they THOUGHT they were chasing him, but really, he was just sending them on snipe hunts all over the country. After all, if you KNOW they're tracking you, disinformation becomes the ultimate weapon.

  • by lafiel (667810) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:21AM (#8179653) Homepage

    Ok, time to feed the trolls.

    Your logic that "There have been no other strikes at America since 9/11 and Patriot Act" is like saying "There has been no more World Wars since the 1946 and the invention of digital computing."

    That is, how the hell does make sense? First, 9/11 is a date, it's certainly not preventing anything. And second, just because the Patriot Act has been put out doesn't mean it's the reason why any more attacks have been deterred. Mobilization of the army might be a good reason, increased security and a global alert for the "War of Terrorism" might be next. How about "You don't strike when they're expecting it"?

    You're quite gullible. Please, start thinking for yourself instead of swallowing what 'truth' has been spoon-fed to you.

  • by Lord of Ironhand (456015) <arjen@xyx.nl> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:23AM (#8179678) Homepage
    Now I am not agreeing either that I want Big Brother watching my every move. I just don't see how we can have both the government checking out people/groups whoever, AND the same privacy we had post 9-11.

    You're right, we can't. But do you really think that the government's checking out of everything helps prevent terrorism? The War on Terror might very well be fueling terrorism instead of extinguishing it.

  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fireduck (197000) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:23AM (#8179680)
    And only stupid terrorists are likewise going to leave a trail of electronic crumbs to track. Yeah, you could argue that stupid terrorists are worth nabbing, but clearly whomever was responsible for 9/11 wasn't stupid, nor will the individual(s) responsible for the first nuclear detonation on American soil be stupid.

    Actually, they were stupid, or at least sloppy. Nearly one-third of the terrorists had visas or travel documents with obvious forgeries [philly.com]. While sophisticated in some respects, they clearly weren't James Bond supergenius villian types. In addition, more than half of them were flagged [msn.com] by the airlines computer system as a threat, but were never checked because the system was designed for luggage, not people. So, obviously these people had something in their history/profile that indicated they could be trouble.

    Perhaps a better system could have stopped or blunted the events of 9/11. who knows...
  • Bush Economy II (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Quantum-Sci (732727) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:34AM (#8179787) Homepage
    a new system for tracking individuals based on their electronic presence.

    My god. Not only do they tip up the U.S. Treasury and shake it empty, but they also want to track everyone as we try find a job? Double-plus ungood.

    Any remaining Party members should have a look at this [reuters.com]. We have been raped and robbed, repeatedly, and we should start publicizing it, and see to ars publicum, as they have seen to their radical self-interest, for so long.

    {foil hat}
    This in mind, I offer a deeply cynical view of this Senate ricin episode:
    - In 2001 several middle-left congressmen and newspeople were targeted with anthrax, which was truly deadly because it was extremely fine and it had a special exotic treatment on each particle to cause it to fly airborne. It could even pass through the pores in an envelope.
    - Now "gray granules [reuters.com]" of ricin are found in envelopes to conservatives.
    - Only an idiot would think granules would be a real threat. The kind of idiot who would leave fingerprints on the envelope and DNA in the glue, which is not the case here.
    - U.S. Gen Tommy Franks recently said that the Constitution "may have to be suspended if there's another major terrorist attack".
    - Some are concerned that the 2008 elections may be suspended on grounds of national security; but hopefully it won't be the 2004 elections instead? If Kerry or Edwards is too strong?
    - With the blame made this time on 'linux hippies?
    {/foil hat}

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:34AM (#8179788)
    > The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated [ ... ] (emphasis poster's)

    So close, and yet so far, from the truth.

    RTFWW. Read the fucking Weasel Word.

    It says "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated [ ... ]" (Emphasis mine)

    Nowhere does it say the people have any say in defining what's reasonable. The Legislature does the defining. The Executive does the searching. Where it's not clear whether a search was reasonable and a warrant was not issued, the Judicial branch determines if the Executive crossed the line.

    If I made an ad that says the Yugo is the fastest car, you'd be able to sue me for false advertising. If I made an ad that says the Yugo is the fastest car in its class.

    The fact that the Yugo is a Class I.3c.55.X vehicle - "Imported 4-cylinder sub-sub-sub-compacts, maximum safe speed 55 miles per hour, resale value of less than scrap value" - is a little detail I choose to leave out. Determining how many classes there are, and what class the Yugo is in, is an exercise for the student.

    Likewise with "unreasonable".

  • by B'Trey (111263) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:40AM (#8179844)
    There have been no other strikes at America since 9/11 and Patriot Act had something to do with it.

    I'm not sure if you're trolling, have your tongue firmly planted in your cheek (as I believe GP post had) or if you're serious. I strongly suspect you're a troll. However, I have heard statements like this presented quite seriously, so I'm going to assume that you're serious as well.

    On February 26th, 1993, a bomb went off in the basement of the World Trade Center Trade Tower Number One. It was supposed to bring the building down. It failed. We tracked down, arrested and convicted Ramzi Yousef, Ahmad M. Aja, Mahmud Abouhalima and Nidel Ayyad for the crime, and congratulated ourselves on the success of the prosecution. We did nothing other than lip service to try and identify those who were behind those four, nor did we implement any type of coherent strategic response to prevent future terrorist incidents.

    The terrorist went back to the drawing board. Despite the fact that we did nothing substantial in response to the bomb, they waited eighty years before they implemented their next attack. It occurred on September 11th, 2001, and was more successful than they had any right to hope it would be.

    After a failed attempt, with no response from us, it was eight years before they tried again. And now you have the temerity to say that because there have been no new attacks in two and a half years, our response has been a rousing success! Paugh!

    Our responses have been knee-jerk, designed more to placate the population than to provide us any real solution. We worry more about political correctness and propriety than we do about catching those who wish us harm. We abandon the principles that made us great, and hassle our own citizens so that our leaders can pound their chests and say "Look what I've done to stop terrorism!" Clueless idiots stand by and cheer while our freedoms are ripped away from us.

    You want safety more than you do privacy, but in reality you will have neither. It is fortunate indeed that our forefathers felt differently. Still, this IS America. Batter and bruised though they are, our freedoms are still muchly intact. You have the right to believe and speak as you like. However, please do me one favor. Abandon your hypocrisy. If you have any American flags on your vehicle, go out and remove them. Get yourself a bumper sticker which reads "Freedom: it's a luxury we can no longer afford." or "Give me tyranny but keep me safe!" When the National Anthem plays, just turn your back to the flag. Make your contempt for the ideals and principles which made this country great plain to all. Let everyone know that the America of the past was a failure, that we need a new country and a new government, one devoted to the proposition that all men should be safe and comfy, and no cost is too high in our efforts to achieve that.
  • by Wun Hung Lo (702718) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:43AM (#8179866)
    In World War II we were fighting nations with governments. There were central authorities that could be identified as leading these governments and it was easy to tell when they were defeated and the war was over. The war on terror CAN'T EVER BE WON. Terrorism has no central authority or borders. Anyone with a cause , a weapon and the will to use it can be a terrorist. Didn't you ever read George Orwell's 1984 where the country was in a never-ending war with an un-named enemy and if you questioned it you were unpatriotic. It's very scary how easily people are willing to throw their freedoms away.
  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drooling-dog (189103) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:43AM (#8179867)
    And only stupid terrorists are likewise going to leave a trail of electronic crumbs to track.

    Well, as you may recall, the 9/11 terrorists were behaving pretty obviously beforehand - learning to take off but not land, etc. - to the point where local FBI field agents were practically begging the home office to follow up. The top dogs in Quantico basically told them to shut the f__k up.

    Does this remind you of the Challenger disaster, where top managers repeatedly ignored warnings from the the engineers? The more data dredging they do, the more noise and false-alarms there will be. The top people - mostly political hacks, probably - won't want to be bothered, especially if the warnings distract them from their current pet projects and obsessions, or the particular axes they have to grind.

    This info will come in handy, however, when they want to go after particular individuals or groups, whether for legitimate or illegitimate reasons. During the Nixon administration, all it took to attract their emnity was to publicly oppose the Vietnam war or criticize the President. Now that we're being protected against "terrorism", we can expect things to get even worse.

  • by lysium (644252) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:44AM (#8179880)
    "I'm actually much more concerned about the government's ability and willingness to repress political speech..."

    If I recall correctly, protesters in the US are corralled into tightly-secured pens, with ranks of riot police on all sides, helicopters\snipers lurking overhead, and undercover agents in the crowd around you. So technically, everyone is allowed to voice their dissent. But the rules are designed to discourage as many people as possible. Do you want to be penned, covertly photographed, and possibly get 'swept up' by being near the wrong people?

    We may have more freedom of political expression than, say, China, but that freedom depends upon anonymity -- or do people keep the curtain wide open when they vote? Does everyone make it a point to inform their employer of their political opinions (especially the unpopular ones)?

    " I'm more annoyed on a practical every day basis with the nosy neighbors than I am with US Bank's selling my credit card purchase information ..."

    You do not see the connection between 'nosy neighbors' and a nosy government? Astounding.

    =============

  • by mjh (57755) <mark@ho r n clan.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @10:57AM (#8179978) Homepage Journal
    I don't mean to enrage the slashdotistas, but I find myself wondering why I should care about this. I don't personally view anonymity on the Internet as a right. It's nice and convenient sometimes, but not a right. So, it means that I have to be careful about the things that I do on the Internet. If I do something that makes me a target of a criminal investigation, isn't it a good thing to be able to track me?

    Of course, there's a limit to this. Law enforcement should not be able to track anyone for any reason. They should only track those for whom they have sufficient cause. But that's true in the non-cyber world, too. In the non-cyber world, if you do something that provides justification for tracking, you have no right to anonymity. Ted Kaczynski did not have a right to anonymity after he started planting bombs. Just because Ted Kaczynski gets tracked doesn't mean that everyone should be tracked. But at the same time, just because there are limits on who to track doesn't mean that we shouldn't track Ted Kaczynski.

    So my question is this: how is the internet different? Shouldn't law enforcement be able to track criminals on the internet? If controls can be put in place to prevent tracking anyone for any reason, shouldn't we encourage being able to track suspected criminals?
  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rupert (28001) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:01AM (#8180018) Homepage Journal
    the individual(s) responsible for the first nuclear detonation on American soil

    That would be Robert Oppenheimer.
  • by Potor (658520) <farker1@g m a i l . c om> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:03AM (#8180027) Journal
    You are either a troll, or completely naive.

    My bet is that you are a troll. Giving up privacy, even incrementally, has nothing to do with an increase in your security. To the contrary, it is to create a state in which the only thing protected is the state.

    The funny thing is that the more the state demands from your privacy, the more the state is apt to block access to information on the grounds of state-secrecy.

  • by Lemmeoutada Collecti (588075) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .noerebo.> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:03AM (#8180031) Homepage Journal
    The problem with that premise is that it assumes law abiding citizens. In the current state of US law, both Federal and State, every citizen has broken at least one law. Whether it is something as minor as violating a Keep-Off-The-Grass sign, or speeding on the interstate, very probably 99% or the adult citizenry have violated at least one law. If you need reaffirmation of that, look at DumbLaws.com

    That is usually all the ammunition a corrupt government ever needs.

    As far as terrorism, the terrorist I am more worried about are not external, but internal. The politicians, the megacorporations, the lobbying groups.

    Before we try to secure the 'free world' we should look to our own home.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:13AM (#8180121) Homepage
    Somewhere L. Ron Hubbard screams with laughter in the bowels of Heck.

    Scientology rejoices today. There will be no way they do not obtain access to this tracking system.

    I'm sure Reverend Moon (R-God on Earth), good friend of Bush, and owner of the Washington Times, will also receive his TrackYourEnemiesOnline! account userid and password at the same time the Doublecrossers will.

    How would this system have stopped 40 men with boxcutters from crashing those planes?

    This is a dream system for crushing dissidents. That's all it is.
  • by wintermute740 (450084) <wintermute@ni t e m a r e c a f e .com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:20AM (#8180190) Homepage
    "don't have anything to worry.
    This will make our country more secure and safer from terrorism.
    Furthermore all American pariotic parties are joined in this effort to fight terrorism - even Howard Dean is supporting personal identification schemes.
    And remember we are at war - the war against terrorism. And in a war everybody has do to his share to ensure the victory of the forces of the free world. If that means that I have to give up some privacy, then I'll do my share gladly.
    At WWII we had to make much larger sacrifices to save the free world and democracy." - Samual Duncan

    "He who would give up liberty for security deserves neither." - Ben Franklin

  • by innerweb (721995) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:24AM (#8180229)

    Anybody who thinks that this next little step is harmless, has a poor grasp of history. True, in and of itself, it may be mostly useless, but it is not in and of itself. It is a tool that augments a larger collection of tools to provide a "data" or "statistical" picture of a person, their habits and their wanderings.

    What happens in the future when a person is in the same location as a terrorist, has a friend with a suspect background, and espouses unpopular (but legal) ideas. You can now arrest them. Circumstantial evidence links them to the terrorist (you can not avoid whom you do not know), they are saying "anti-government" ideals (not necessarily separatist or violent), and through enough weeding, the rest of the case will be found.

    McCarthy destroyed many people who opposed him by using innuendo, circumstantial evidence and (lying) witnesses. Almost no one was able to beat him at his game because he had such an effective information collection and management system. That is where we are slowly headed, good intentions or not.

    Right now, those in power would benefit immensely from this system. It makes it that much easier to stay in power if your potential enemies' weaknesses are that much easier to find. Do not think that this information system will not be abused. The RIAA has just provided us with many beautiful example of how this is abused by prosecuting minors. Children are not able to enter into legal agreements because it is agreed that they are incapable of understanding what the legal consequences are, let alone to be able to distinguish right from wrong (true, to some degree, most children know basic rights and wrongs, but more complicated ones are hard if not impossible for most children to grasp.) Other forms of this are profiling, poorly managed data at credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union required The Fair Credit Reporting Act [ftc.gov] to get them to do some things better) and so on

    Oh, and for those of you who point to the police not being able to find criminals because they did not bother to look at the system, human error will always exist. This system allows a much different use of the data than what the typical police system has. Those tend to be much less complete, and the officers themselves often recieve little training and have even less support and experience doing this kind of research. The people to worry about with the systems being made today are in a different world from "on the street" law enforcement. They thrive on this kind of data mining. Most of the informarion McCarthy had on people was never used. He had it there just in case. It was how he controlled votes in the government and kept even his dark secrets out of the light. I am not worried that this will be used to arrest some innocent people nearly as much as I am worried that a smart person with a "bad" bent will learn how to gather and abuse this information to further corrupt the process in their favor. I do not think this is an if thing, but a when thing. Every tool gets abused. The more powerful the tool, the more powerful the abuse and the abuser.

    The problems with my arguments are things like this abduction at Fox News [foxnews.com]. You would have to be a heartless bastard to not want a safer world for our children, our parents and our friends. With crime against innocents and defenseless individuals so rampant, it is very difficult to argue against this type of tool. It is a very similar to what McCarthy had with the Soviets and Cuba when he was in power.

  • by rbird76 (688731) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:28AM (#8180268)
    The Constitution was written to limit the power of a central gov't. The people who wrote it believed that government with a lot of power could very easily be turned to ends which are bad for the people it governs. Checks and balances and the specific limitations on government (the 9th or 10th Amendment to the US Constitution) are written with this in mind - the power from a government comes from the people, and the government can't do certain things even if the people want it to. The threat of bad and overly powerful government (or a gov't that claims power independent of its people) is independent of whether an individual has "something to hide" or whether he is good or bad. Bad governments start when the people running it decide that their power is independent of the people they serve, and the protections for individuals are designed to prevent this.

    WWII had both a unity of purpose and a rationally perceivable threat that the "war on terror" does not; that isn't to say that there is not a threat, but that it is harder for people to determine where a particular threat exists and what is reasonable to do about it. WWII also had threats that could be mitigated; it isn't clear that terror can ever be gotten rid of. The advertisements by Homeland Security reinforce this - they essentially say, "Prepare, because we can't protect against all of the threats that might be out there". While DHS may be effective, there is no freedom that I can give up to be safe from terror (unless I give all of my freedom up). Giving up freedom (usually of others) to get security in this case is a fool's game.

    The problem with the war on terror is that we won't ever be perfectly safe; the goals short of that which are acceptable are fuzzy. Giving up lots of freeedoms (or lots of freedoms for unpopular people) sacrifices the things that it claims to preserve - liberty and democracy. A gov't empowered independently of its people is likely to be worse for its people and for others than even the potential threats of terrorism. Ultimately, the stated job of the "War on Terror" is to preserve democracy and freedom; destroying both of those to attempt to preserve safety seems self-defeating. If we want to fight terrorism, we have to be careful that we don't destroy ourselves doing it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:38AM (#8180356)
    We are now forced to slowly move towards Big Brother. We have to rethink our open, free borders.

    I disagree strongly that we are "forced" to do so. I agree that we appear be making those movements in many ways. The government is slowly stealing our freedoms and privacy away, for no measurable gain.

    We are moving towards electronic voting, even though it is much simpler to change a million votes electronically than physically, especially with the current systems.

    The root of the problem is that people vote for the candidate whose "plans" give them the most money, even when those plans are not realistic. There is too much pork, too many programs design to cost little for ten years, and then skyrocket, and too little focus on issues and too much focus on slogans. There is too much focus on the media, even by the media.

    Freedom is not free, either to gain or maintain. This is true in the Open Source movement, as well as in the government. People are greedy. Power corrupts. Privacy is necessary for freedom. A government scared of its own populace has failed to govern properly.

    Would you rather live in a completely safe country or a free country? Women and men, both within and without the USA, fought and died to defend the freedoms in their country. Let not their struggles have been in vane.

    </rant>

  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoneyT (548795) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:39AM (#8180374) Journal
    Part of this is very dependant on how the system is used. Example, does it active to trace a specific individual (and as such should fall under the jurisdiction of warrents) or is it passive, waiting to flag words (maybe assasinate, or kidde porn or whatever). If it's passive, how is it evaluated? Does it look for trends (i.e. one search for kiddie porn throws up a flag, but multiple searches over 6 months invites closer scrutiny). How is the information examined? Does it only look for specific catch words, or does it evaluate the catch phrases and then the associated locations that are accessed? i.e if you type in kiddie porn, now the system is watching your connection, but if you start accessing sites like law sites, maybe research departments at universities etc it drops the monitoring? The idea in and of itself is not evil, it's the implimentation that needs to be considered.
  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yarbo (626329) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `akakredom'> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:57AM (#8180515)
    weren't these the same people who said "we want to know how to steer a plane, not land or take off"?
  • Re:no shit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aceticon (140883) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:27PM (#8180791)
    How about knowing how many condoms somenone has bought in a month?

    How about figuring out that such someone usually buy condoms thursday late afternoon at a certain place?

    How about figuring out that that person also rents a hotel room in a closeby location every thursday afternoon?

    How about figuring out that he leaves work early on tursday afternoons and arrive home late?

    How about figuring out that a collegue of him does the same?

    How about if someone unscrupulous with access to this information threathens that he will denounce the love affair with the work collegue to said person's wife?

    What if that collegue was a man?

    Not to mention telling that person's boss?

    And all his work collegues?

    ...



    There's all sorts of socially frowned upon behaviours people don't want their work collegues or their family to know about. Sometimes not even about oneself but about one's family:

    Does one really wants that all his work colegues know he has pissed in his bed til 14?

    Or that his son was once arrested for drunk driving?

    Or that in a period of his life he was an alcoholic?

    Or maybe just telling one's cristian studies group exactly what one does on friday evenings (boose, woman and gambling)?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:54PM (#8180996)
    Ah yes lets move toward big brother, reduce freedoms, etc. In fact lets do everything we can EXCEPT actually addressing the issues that create terrorists in the first place.
  • by jefeweiss (628594) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @12:56PM (#8181017)

    Freedom in America is an illusion, and has been for quite some time. You can choose Coke or Pepsi. You can vote Republicrat or Democan. You can get your news from CNN or Fox News. If you define freedom as being the ability to make legitimate choices there's not really too much left. Back in the day if you didn't feel like paying rent you could just head for the horizon. Now if you head for the horizon you get arrested for trespassing.

    All I have to say is thank god you can still smoke marijuana in your own home. Oh wait, you can't legally do that. Well, at least you can politically protest without being shot with less lethal ammunition. Oh wait, you can't do that either. Well, at least we still have to freedom to travel where ever we want (unless we happen to have an Arabic last name.) In college towns you can't even drink a beer in your own yard without getting harassed. Freedom in America has been on a downhill slide pretty much since it's inception, and I don't really see much being done about it.

  • by Tokerat (150341) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @01:02PM (#8181082) Journal

    In the end, I believe the terrorists did win. We are now forced to slowly move towards Big Brother. We have to rethink our open, free borders.
    I wonder if that was their plan all the long, or a side-effect fortunate to them. Let's look at it: The big stress point in the middle east is the Israel/Palistine conflict. We stuck our noses in the whole mess, probably because of a large influence of the Jewish-American community. Now, the Muslim world hates us for "aiding the infidels", and of course we can't forget all that other fun stuff we've been doing in Iraq...they see foolish, greedy men come to power and decide to play mind games with war... a major terrorist attack on the United States. Once this happens, the foolish men decide to create a "protectionistic" society, with fewer freedoms but "so what, it's safer". Everntually, these foolish men (or others perhaps who succeed them) become abusive of their new power, and attempt more control, using the new rules to not only keep citizens safe from threats, but also to keep citizens from breaking even the most minor of laws, even when they aren't aware their actions where illegal. Of course, they're still doing it "for your own good", but honestly, most people break laws everyday. You don't yield or perhaps you download an MP3, etc...sometimes it's even by accident. Protectionism becomes over-protectionism and now the goal is for a utopian, crime-free scociety. People are imprisoned without trial for longer and longer, both due to a backup in the court system and the evil men's desire to keep things quiet. You could no longer tell which where men and which where pigs.

    Eventually, people would start to catch on, and perhaps there will be a similar downfall to the United States as there was to the USSR.

    We'd better wake up. Quickly. If all you patriotic Americans who love your country want to keep it, you'd better keep your eyes open, and the eyes of your congressional representatives as well.
  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:2, Insightful)

    by deadlinegrunt (520160) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @01:18PM (#8181241) Homepage Journal
    No amount of advanced technology can help you if you don't have a clear idea of what the end result is. Another case for the reason you shouldn't look for technological fixes to sociological problems.
  • by lysium (644252) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @01:35PM (#8181395)
    Shouldn't law enforcement be able to track criminals on the internet?

    Sure they should. Now define 'criminal' for me. Before you do, I can confidently state that what you consider criminal and what I consider criminal are going to be different; which one of us gets to make the determination?

    Would you consider Dr. Martin Luther King & associates criminal? He was viewed as one by people in law enforcement, and was closely monitored. Do you see what the real problem is, yet?

    ================

  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @02:53PM (#8182171)
    The EU guys will not understand this as they have always lived in a society where you had to get permission to do anything. You had no real rights only permits. The founders of the USA so opposed such a concept that they ran it out of our land on a rail. The return of it is the return to what brought on the Dark Ages. (Something the EU guys might know a about)

    Why the snide comments about the EU? And what on earth makes you think that we don't understand the concepts of rights and freedoms?

    I find it deeply ironic that the United States, a country that prides itself on its Constitution and the rights of its citizens, is also the place where: you have giant corporations controlling your government and laughing at your legal system; you have the right to free speech, as long as you can afford the lawyers to defend it; the constitutional safeguards over copyright are being trampled by the aforementioned big corps; you hold hundreds of people indefinitely and without charge, based on an accusation and a technicality of international law that no-one else recognises; and you have a President of dubious mandate, taking your country to war supported by dubious intelligence, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocents, the destruction of a whole country's infrastructure, the deaths of numerous American servicemen and women, and did I mention some rather lucrative rebuilding contracts for major corps with whom your senior leadership has intimate ties?

    The UK government has become increasingly abusive of its authority, particularly since Tony Blair's lot came to power, with Jack Straw and then David Blunkett as Home Secretary. However, we can't even approach your level of legal impotence and government abuse, and you're busy trying to inflict it on the rest of the world! And at least at our general election next year, we'll have candidates to vote for who don't all say the same thing, which is as bad as who we've got at the moment anyway...

    You make a lot of good points in your post, and I agree with much of what you say, but with all due respect, you seem to have a serious lack of perspective on the world outside. For all our knowledge of the Dark Ages, as far as rights and responsibilities go, I'd still far prefer to be living in the EU than the US right now.

  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ghc71 (738171) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @03:05PM (#8182302)
    20/20 hindsight. The only test of their stupidity, or sloppiness, is the skyline of Manhattan. They evaded the measures in place to catch them, and they flew planes into the World Trade Center. Why do you believe that people willing to do that, would not equally find ways to circumvent better systems?
  • by Apple Acolyte (517892) on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @05:31PM (#8183985)
    You're off base their, Trurul; I suggest that you brush up on your political theory before making irresponsible populist statements. The electoral college is a functional, positive mechanism designed by the framers of our Constitution in order to both check potential tyranny of the majority as well as to give individual states an opportunity to shape the collective political destiny of the nation.

    The electoral college provides smaller states with representation, which they would be lacking if we were to switch solely to the popular vote. Please realize that without the electoral college, presidential candidates would only need to concentrate on the most populous states (CA, NY, Texas Florida...), and all of the smaller states would be ignored. You may advocate such a system, but I believe smaller states deserve to be heard. When we became a union, states were guaranteed a certain amount of sovereignty. Consequently, the electoral college facilitates state democracy. Just as Judge Bork stated years ago, the doctrine of one person one vote is not consistent with the foundational code of our system. Eliminating the electoral college would subject smaller states to another's political will, without their support or input.

  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:3, Insightful)

    by G-funk (22712) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Wednesday February 04, 2004 @11:21PM (#8186895) Homepage Journal
    I'm just saying that if we're scared of the government abusing a power that we give them, why do we continue to give them such power?

    We don't. They're taking it from us, one teeny little reasonable-seeming, "won't somebody think of the chidlren" law at a time.
  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by instarx (615765) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @05:43AM (#8187712)
    I am ashamed to say that as an American I have to agree with you. If you truly want to have freedom from government intrusion and heavy-handed abuse of your rights, you have to live somewhere other than the US. But not Britain, by the way. I still think the US is in the top 20% of countries where personal freedoms are important, but we no longer lead the world.

    Things I grew up with that I accepted as being a basic part of America are just no longer true, mainly that the government can't imprison you without a trial, you are always entitled to a lawyer, and the government has to actually charge you to imprison you, and the government cannot torture prisoners. The trend of the US government to detain people they don't like indefinately without charge by calling them Material Witnesses is an abomination in this so-called "Land of the Free".

    Don't even get me started on the self-serving legal maneuver of calling people (including US citizens) "enemy combatants" and giving them neither legal rights NOR rights as prisoners of war. Why doesn't this upset more Americans? I live in Manhattan and I really hate terrorsits, but these people need to be tried and punished using the democratic process.

    I used to be told that one of the things setting this country apart from dictatorships was that dictatorships could imprison people at will and would not even tell their families they had been taken - they just disappeared. Well, the US has its own "disappeards" now. Two years ago I saw a newscast of family members outside a Washington State Federal Detention facility holding signs with pictures of their son they thought was being held there. It turned out later that the government wanted to hold him but because there was absolutely no evidence he committed any crime he was being held indefinately and secretly under Material Witness laws. There are people in this country that have been in prison cells for years under Material Witness laws without access to the courts or legal counsel. This is AMERICA?

    Why did it not cause more alarm when this administration was seriously talking about suspending the Constitution after 9/11? Although cutting your own throat is a sure way to avoid cancer, the cure is worse than the disease. It is the same with the Bush administration and the extreme right-wing Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld ultra-nationalistic policies the Republican Party has turned to. What is most worrying is the willingness of the average American to accept this behavior by our government and to actually support it as Patriotic.

    To end on a more positive note, it is encouraging to see the Presidential candidates criticizing the current administration for trampling our Constitutional rights. That they are willing to do so indicates that there is a very large segment of the voting population that agrees that the right-wing Bush administration has gone too far.
  • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:30AM (#8187887) Journal
    You're off base their, Trurul; I suggest that you brush up on your political theory before making irresponsible populist statements. The electoral college is a functional, positive mechanism designed by the framers of our Constitution in order to both check potential tyranny of the majority as well as to give individual states an opportunity to shape the collective political destiny of the nation.

    Sir, with all due respect, across the pond there are some democratic countries that elect their presidents in direct vote. There are many reasons to dislike those pesky French, but they can hardly be called a tyranny. The framers of the US Constitution were framing it in a different era, where only a small faction of adult citizens was eligible to vote etc. etc. What was good in the late 1700's might not be that good in the early 2000's.

    The electoral college provides smaller states with representation, which they would be lacking if we were to switch solely to the popular vote. Please realize that without the electoral college, presidential candidates would only need to concentrate on the most populous states (CA, NY, Texas Florida...), and all of the smaller states would be ignored.

    And that's exatly the way it is today. California has 54 votes. Montana has 3 votes. The candidates indeed concentrate on the most populous states (that's why there was so much fuss about the Florida counting; should the same situation happen in Montana, nobody would ever care).
  • Re:Ugly choices (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Matrix272 (581458) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @08:26AM (#8188364)
    The idea in and of itself is not evil, it's the implimentation that needs to be considered.

    I absolutely agree. My point was that the government is the one that's going to be implementing this, and at the moment, the government seems to take whatever they want from the people they're meant to govern... sometimes to the severe detriment of the concepts and principles that made this country great in the first place. Keep this in mind: The government is the only organization that has the power to use force to take what they want from you. If you don't submit to their will, you could be thrown in jail. No other person or organization has quite that kind of power (at least, not without the fear of reciprication).
  • by swb (14022) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @09:55AM (#8189151)
    OK, you've named one, extremely infamous, case from one of the most violent eras of modern American social history, for which there is an equally infamous European counterpart -- the Bloody Sunday shooting in Northern Ireland. And that doesn't even count the British detentions without charge, targeted assassinations, and so on.

    I wouldn't say that the US doesn't have some infamous moments in crowd control, but I also don't think it represents a pattern of repression of public protest. While America had race riots in the 1940s, a lot of Europeans were committing genocide on massive scale. Who looks worse?

Loose bits sink chips.

Working...