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EFF Asks How Big Brother Is Watching The Internet 354

MacDork writes "The EFF filed a FOIA request yesterday with the FBI and other offices of the US DOJ regarding expanded powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act. The EFF is making the request in an attempt to find out whether or not Section 216 is being used to monitor web browsing without a warrant. The DOJ has already stated they can collect email and IP addresses, but has not been forthcoming on the subject of URL addresses. It seems the EFF is seeking any documentation to confirm such activity is taking place. One can only hope the automated FOIA search doesn't produce any false negatives or cost the EFF $372,999."
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EFF Asks How Big Brother Is Watching The Internet

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @07:56PM (#11546214)
    heh... [slashdot.org]
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @07:56PM (#11546218) Homepage
    ...if all our monitors turned out to be "telescreens"?
  • 80% redaction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MMHere ( 145618 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @07:58PM (#11546229)
    Whatever they get will likely be 80% redacted. How is that useful? How is that freedom of information? You ask for info and they black out much of the useful stuff.

    NPR's On The Media program (aired yesterday in these parts), talked about ACLU requests in 2003 regarding Iraqi prisoner abuse (well before Abu Graib broke), and the docs they did receive -- after lengthy expensive lawsuits -- was mostly (80%) blacked out.
  • by mboverload ( 657893 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:11PM (#11546346) Journal
    I go to the terrorist/arabic sites then use Ajeeb (http://english.ajeeb.com/ [ajeeb.com]) to learn what they are saying about us. I don't want the government talking this in the wrong light. I should not have to worry at all.
  • by kin_korn_karn ( 466864 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:15PM (#11546364) Homepage
    oh, give Orwell a break, he was writing in the 40's. Nobody bitches about Phillip K. Dick for having the most powerful computers in his stories be the size of the Empire State Building.
  • Re:Hilarious! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by unixbugs ( 654234 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:16PM (#11546376)
    That WAS a good one. Posts like his should get a "special" moderation of -2. I can't believe that someone who reads this site, being bombarded by free information on _the_way_things_are_ could actually post like that, unless it was a joke which is almost more believeable.

    First and last, I'd just like to say DONT FUCK WITH ME AND MY FAMILY OR MY COUNTRY. This includes everyone brain washed into believing Britney Spears is a diety to the litigous and scanalous entities who push the whole image, along with the lawmakers who enforce this thought policing.

    We kicked the rest of the worlds ass for this place and we will do it again all day long if we have to. We dont need paperwork and beauracracy to keep the peace, we need an ugly stick and a good motto ( you feelin' froggy?) hanging on the wall in everyones house.

    This just goes to show how few people will stand up for what they believe in anymore, let alone even know what they believe in.
  • Be alert (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Glonoinha ( 587375 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:19PM (#11546403) Journal
    For those of you that missed it the other day, some guy was arrested because of his buying habits at the grocery store - tracked by his frequent flyer card (or whatever they call them - I don't use em) from the same store.

    Evidently months ago he bought the same kind of lighter fluid that was used to light his own house on fire with his wife and kids inside. He was pretty much going to 'pound me in the ass prison' until someone else 'fessed up to lighting the fire (the family didn't get hurt in the fire, IIRC.)

    If you think for 60 seconds you aren't being watched - ask that guy.
  • Re:Creepy stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stephenisu ( 580105 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:19PM (#11546405)
    While I also do not like the idea of being monitored for my internet activity, I think we as a community should develop better tools to secure our own protection if we are afraid of being tracked.

    I truly do not like the idea of me being put on a terrorist watch list for reading liberal publications, but I choose to read them anyways.

    Alas, I am less of a coder and more of marketer.
  • Re:Creepy stuff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:42PM (#11546560)
    Isn't anonymizer.com still in business? It was a proxy service you could pay to use.

    I would check myself, but I hesitate to do so from work. I guess that in itself says something about being one of the few people to use encryption or proxying.

  • ECHELON (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:47PM (#11546589)
    Well, What about the (almost) famous Echelon system? It supposedly feed all the worlds communications(phone, internet, sat, etc...) into databases and sifts through them to find "useful" intelligence....oops don't tell anyone I've said this....
  • by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:55PM (#11546655) Homepage
    Why doesn't someone set up a "honey pot" that automatically trolled through the nastiest of the nasty of the various "terrorist" web sites, and see what happens?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @09:12PM (#11546751)
    Darn right, dude!

    There potentially plenty of little brothers out there too, and best practices are to encrypt.

    Remember to play them against each other too: if Big Brother ever asks why you encrypt everything, you can truthfully tell him you're protecting yourself from organized crime, nosey snoopers, terrorists, direct marketers, etc.

    "Computer, I encrypt so that COMMIES(!) can't spy on us. Thanks to your teaching, I know they're everywhere! Oh, how I love the computer."

  • Re:Considerations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Daniel Boisvert ( 143499 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @09:12PM (#11546758)
    People don't understand how the FOIA works. I work for a quasi-public agency which occasionally receives FOI requests. We respond to FOI requests as fast as we possibly can (we generally turn them around on the order of days, not weeks, from what I hear).

    The issue is that people think that because they pay taxes, they should be able to get any document they want without paying anything extra. They'll call asking for "All documents related to X, Y, and Z.". Ignoring for the moment that FOI requests have to be in writing, that could amount to stacks of boxes worth of documents. They look at a potential bill of hundreds or thousands of dollars, and wonder how it could possibly cost so much.

    There are a few things that cost money here:

    1) Copying fees
    Somebody's got to copy all those documents. Whether we have them onsite and one of our folks has to do it or we have to pay for outside counsel to do it (We pay attorneys' rates to our counsel, and you will reimburse us for that :), somebody's going to spend a bunch of time at the photocopier in order to fulfil your request.

    2) Transport fees
    If the documents you want are offsite, you're going to have to pay for a truck to fetch them. If we've got a truck coming from offsite storage anyhow, your documents can generally ride for no extra charge.

    3) Time to find what you want
    We don't have every document magically indexed so a minimum wage intern can find anything you can possibly want. Your request will have to go to our human SQL engines. These people are amazing, know a ton, and cost money. They've been working for us for a long time, and are very busy. If they can fit your request into their normal workflow, great, but if not, you're going to have to pay extra for their time.

    We don't price-gouge folks on these things. It's important for people to realise that FOI requests cost agencies money, and we will pass on whatever charges we incur to the requester. Many people decide that they really don't want as many documents as they thought--or any at all--once they realise it'll cost them money.

    I'm not trying to discourage people from making FOI requests. I think it's important for people to know what their government is doing on their behalf. What I'm trying to say is that if you ask for all documents related to X, Y, and Z, and that comes to a few million pages, be prepared to get precisely what you asked for--and to pay for it. :)

    Also, as much as we'd like for our human SQL engines to be infallible and be able to recall every document related to anything you could possibly want, it is possible we'll miss something. We don't intentionally withhold stuff you've requested. In fact, we will give you -precisely- what you've requested, so it's a very good idea to phrase your request carefully, so as to avoid a huge bill and a mountain of paper you don't want. We generally warn you if you request a mountain of data and sound like you're expecting 20 pages, but if you insist you want everything, you will get it. I don't know whether the FBI or the DOJ withholds data, but I'm pretty sure it's against policy and anybody caught doing so will be suitably reamed.

    It's easy to get pissed off at a huge faceless agency and assume they're holding out on you because they're The Man and you're onto them. It may just be that the person who was tasked with your FOI request really truly couldn't find anything. Government agencies are staffed by humans, too.
  • by the-build-chicken ( 644253 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @09:20PM (#11546794)
    ...what are your chances of being threatened, blackmailed or falsly accused of a crime based on evidence gathered from your web browsing...I would guess pretty low. Now, lets have a look at some other statistics:

    Chances of a child dying in a third world country before you finish reading this post: 100%

    Chances of corporations being allowed to pump shit into the atmosphere until everyone with beach front property ends up having a really bad century: 100%

    Chance of a really imporant species becoming extinct for no other reason than to increase shareholder value before the end of today: 100%

    Chance that Monsanto is not telling us the 'whole truth' when it comes to genetically modified food (they've done it before guys): very freakin high

    etc etc

    Not trying to knock peoples beliefs here, but seriously...for sheer return on investment, isn't there a bunch more useful things to get angry about?

    There are some real threats to this world, generally, your government is too stupid/apathetic/disorganized to be one of them.
  • Re:49% (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @09:23PM (#11546810)
    Ok, lemme break it down for you:
    Choice 1: Don't vote
    Choice 2: Vote for a pile of stinking shit
    Choice 3: Vote for a smaller, febrezed piece of shit that happens to agree with you - sometimes
    Choice 4: Vote for some other guy with no chance of getting elected, causing your vote to be wasted in the only election in years that has mattered, which, compounded with the wasted votes of others, contributes to the overall pseudo-fascist corporate rule of tomorrow, all because you couldn't agree on a candidate, or, god forbid, write your god damn congressmen about instating an ammendment which enacts the Green Party's instant runoff voting method, so that you don't have to choose between Choice 3 and 4 now, as four years later you'll be able to vote for who you god damn well want!
    Choice 5: Choice 4, with the added part of complaining on /. about how your vote didn't mean shit, but blaming everybody else.
  • Death To FOIA? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sanityspeech ( 823537 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:02PM (#11546998) Journal
    A while ago, I saw a TV show which suggested that George W. Bush has ...eviscerated the Presidential Records Act and FOIA... [pbs.org] for "national security" reasons?

    Can anyone substantiate this argument? If so, how can an act that is used at least two million times a year [gao.gov] be killed without any outcry from the public?
  • Where I live (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:23PM (#11547416)
    Where I live, there has been much debate about using (any) software product or service offered by a U.S. company, for fear that (without notice) the company would turn over confidential information about private citizens to the US government. The Patriot Act insists that they not divulge that they have done this, even though what they are doing is clearly illegal (here). As a result, all American software and services are now being put under scrutiny. Vendor access to private data has become restricted. If support without access is not possible, then the software (and vendor) are no longer required.
  • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @12:04AM (#11547621) Homepage
    FOIA inquires that are won in court shouldn't be returned without the information content redacted. To a very great extent the workings of our government need to become less secretive lest we lose the freedoms we cherish.
    The are several ways to censor. One is to deny access to records. Another is to destroy the records so that they cannot be requested.

    The Bush junta has recently replaced the head of NARA [hnn.us] (National Archives and Records Administration). The new director will be in office at a time when the records from Bush's father are scheduled to be subject to the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and could be opened. Other areas which can be affected are, obviously, the 2000 election scandal, the events (misdeeds) permitting the Sept 11 2001 attack, the controversy about the decision to attack Iraq and, last but not least, irregularities regarding the 2004 election.

    The new director will also oversee the Electronic Records Management e-government and the Electronic Records Archives projects. Note that electronic records, unlike paper, go away by default unless timely, correct, and proactive action is planned and taken.

    Now there are many different views on those controversial topics, but getting the relevant government records into the light of day is about the only democratic way to resolve those questions.

  • Re:Creepy stuff (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Viper168 ( 650370 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @01:07AM (#11547912)
    Those types of proxies often still contain the original URL behind that of the proxy. Sometimes mangled, sometimes not.

    Not something I'd want to put any money on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @01:57AM (#11548119)
    I'm not in the US, but everyone looks forward to the day when Americans get rid of Bush and his terrible policies that actually indirectly or directly influence the rest of the world.

    Internet snooping by paranoid governments is a terrible thing and should only be applied to very suspected big criminals with proper authority of a court order etc. Because it is such an invisible thing, the best solution would be to encourage everyone to use anon surfing techniques like proxies and SSL. Unfortunately most people just don't care about privacy and understand the importance of it.

    In fact, for Europeans, BRUSSELS should be doing something about it. But of course they are more interested in the correct length of a banana and banning Brazil nuts and cutting deals Bill Gates about ID cards and Windows software. Well well.

    Don't look to the EU to save your human rights....Oh unless you ARE a terrorist of course and then you will get big rewards by the European Court of Human Rights if you are handcuffed too roughly by the police.

  • Re:Considerations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daniel Boisvert ( 143499 ) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @08:53AM (#11549595)
    Well, when public agencies use neat tricks like hiring an attorney to examine documents so they can claim attorney-client privilege on files they don't want to reveal (or for various and sundry other reasons not salutary to public interest) can you really complain about the informed public's paranoia?

    We hire outside counsel as needed because it's cheaper than keeping our own host of specialised counsel on staff. I'm not aware of any instance where attorney/client privilege has been used to withhold files. We simply pass along whatever it costs us to get the documents you requested.

    I appreciate the paranoia. In order to be paranoid you have to care what's going on, which is a far sight better than the general apathy that seems to permeate society these days.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll