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China Wants UN To Help Trace Sources On Internet 303

An anonymous reader brings us a CNet story, which begins: "A United Nations agency is quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous. The U.S. National Security Agency is also participating in the 'IP Traceback' drafting group, named Q6/17, which is meeting next week in Geneva to work on the traceback proposal. Members of Q6/17 have declined to release key documents, and meetings are closed to the public. The potential for eroding Internet users' right to remain anonymous, which is protected by law in the United States and recognized in international law by groups such as the Council of Europe, has alarmed some technologists and privacy advocates. Also affected may be services such as the Tor anonymizing network."
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China Wants UN To Help Trace Sources On Internet

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  • yeah but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Entropy98 ( 1340659 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:07AM (#24997649) Homepage
    Wouldn't the ISPs have to be in on this? And there are always still proxies...
    find my ip address []
  • They are usually dog slow but at least they think your message comes from Argentina or South Africa.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      And if the UN gets its way, proxies will be illegal. So will open wifi. Anything that might let you hide will be banned.

      Perhaps there will be a good use for botnets after all :)

  • bugger (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:09AM (#24997663)

    First po....wait someone at the door

  • by d_jedi ( 773213 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:10AM (#24997671)

    It's only a right insofar as you're not committing any crimes. While there are definitely troubling implications to being able to identify people on the Internet (especially considering who's involved here.. China and the NSA..), being able to track down and prosecute scammers, spammers, and other criminals is a worthwhile goal.

    • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:15AM (#24997701)

      I think the right to be anonymous (if you choose) outweighs the "need to track down and prosecute scammers, spammers, and other criminals."

      There are other ways to trace scammers...follow the money. In order to scam you, they must create a pathway for funds to travel from you to them.


      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timmarhy ( 659436 )
        money is even easier to hide than internet addresses, and no they don't need any kind of direct pathway. plenty of 3rd parties are available for currency exchanges. besides i could have the exact same argument with money that financials should be private.
        • money is even easier to hide than internet addresses

          Only if you don't spend it. And if you cannot spend it, why bother?

          i could have the exact same argument with money that financials should be private.

          Well, that bothers me, too. One should just remember that anonymous Swiss account were created to protect Jews from Nazi prosecution. But, still, the police has plenty of ways to investigate suspicious fortunes without intruding into bank accounts. Like, let's say, check the IRS returns for that guy with the R

        • i could have the exact same argument with money that financials should be private.

          And it should be private.


      • by jofny ( 540291 )
        Read up on "The Federalist Papers" and the role anonymity played in the formation of America. These were -critical- to the debate at the time and, without anonymity, they would never have happened. The problem with giving up core freedoms to "combat crime" and whatnot is that if you assume your motive is more worthwhile than those freedoms, you are completely justified in locking anyone or anything up for any reason. If no one is allowed to do anything, they won't commit a crime. The government must neces
    • by BarefootClown ( 267581 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:25AM (#24997775) Homepage

      It's only a right insofar as you're not committing any crimes.

      Like, for example, criticizing a tyrannical regime?

      I'm glad you weren't in charge in 1773.

      • by dwater ( 72834 )

        1773? What happened then?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          If that was sarcasm, please use a "~" or something. 1773 was the start of the American revolution. Boston Tea party and all that? Ring a bell?
          • Not everyone is American. Important event, sure, but not one most of us foreign heathens generally remember the date of.
          • by dwater ( 72834 )

            ok, fair enough. I looked it up and there seemed to be many events that year.
            I'm still unsure what the Boston tea party has to do with this discussion. I mean, it was an attack on the East India Company because they were granted a monopoly on importing tea to the US. Isn't that correct?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ghostunit ( 868434 )
        It's not "criticizing a tyrannical regime", it's disturbing the public order, causing unrest, inciting chaos and upsetting the morals of the community. Now, off you go to re-education, kindly provided by our dear leaders!
    • by Lennie ( 16154 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:27AM (#24997781)

      The problem I see, is that the badguys will be able to hide just as well as they are now (by for using a machine they do not own, like with a botnet), but the goodguys and -gals will have less anonimity.

      This is not a good proposal.

      • by kylben ( 1008989 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:00AM (#24997915) Homepage
        When anonymous internet is a crime, only criminals will have anonymous internet. As usual, this would be a law that will almost exclusively affect the law abiding, except for a few idiots who don't know what they're doing. When those are caught, Chertoff will describe them as technical geniuses, tell us what a great thing it is that we have the even better technical geniuses at DHS to track down these criminal masterminds, and then make an example of them at the show trial. Meanwhile, Chinese dissidents will be getting their organs harvested while they're still squirming on the table.
      • by patro ( 104336 )

        It's not aimed for having another tool against badguys. It will be a tool against those who some government thinks are badguys.

        The definition of badguy according to a government is sometimes simply someone who tries to take down the real badguys, that is the members of that government.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by db32 ( 862117 )

      Don't drink their kool-aid. Sure, tracking down and prosecuting criminals is always a noble goal right? I mean thats why they keep tearing up our rights. To track down terrorists, or child pornographers, or whatever else.

      When speaking badly about your government becomes a crime will it still be a worthwhile goal to track down criminals?

      We have given government the ability to declare who is and isn't a criminal, and now you propose we allow them to do whatever they want in order to find criminals?

    • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:16AM (#24998317) Journal

      Except that it WILL NOT be used for that. Why? Because the scammers,spammers,and kiddie pr0n guys set up their bases in dirt poor third world countries where they will be happy to turn a blind eye to someone who can bring in large sums of money. What it WILL be used for is to crack down on dissenters,activists,and anyone who dares to piss off a corporation. Let me put it this way: Do you honestly trust the people who are in power now in ANY country not to abuse this?

      Mark my words,what they want to do is nothing less than turn the Internet into a series of walled gardens that they can control. The only "dissent" allowed will be "Brand X isn't as good as Brand Y! You should buy Brand Y!" because the control freaks in power HATE the fact that people can point out their abuses of power. The want the Internet to be nothing but a giant Home Shopping Network so their corporate buddies can make more money,PERIOD. Of course they'll use the old "It'll stop Kiddie pr0n and teh terrorists!" bit to make it harder for folks to speak out against it. Frankly I'm shocked it has taken them this long to push this kind of crap. Mark my words,there won't be any more Abu Ghraib [] style scandals,those will all just "disappear". We will end up like that joke from Airplane II "Four alarm fire makes way for GLORIOUS new tractor factory!". But as always this is my 02c,YMMV

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by falconwolf ( 725481 )

      It's only a right insofar as you're not committing any crimes.

      No, it's a right period.

      being able to track down and prosecute scammers, spammers, and other criminals is a worthwhile goal.

      To you perhaps but not to others. Like Benjamen Franklin said those who would give up a little liberty for safety neither deserves nor will get either.


  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:21AM (#24997749)
    when the americans and the chinese have the same goals
    • by dwater ( 72834 )

      Funnily enough, I'm sure the Chinese agree with you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) *

      when the americans and the chinese have the same goals

      Well, get worried.

      Both governments (used in the generic sense, as opposed to the populations) want pretty much the same thing:

      • Access to natural resources at low, non sustainable rates - preferably lower than "everybody else".
        Ability to act on it's own self interests via foreign policy without much obstruction from "everybody else".
        A quiet, stable citizenry. With as little interest in rabble rousing and dissension as is possible.
        Some way to perpet
  • by compumike ( 454538 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:21AM (#24997757) Homepage

    If the tech community makes enough buzz about this, it's likely that we can put the pin back in this grenade. Nobody is going to want to support violating the sanctity of The Internet in an important U.S. election year!

    There already exists a process for getting a name from an I.P. address, and that process thankfully requires court action / subpoena of ISP. Let's keep them in the loop, and make this tracing a relatively hard thing to get, with lots of human approvals needed.

    Hopefully, this proposed short-circuiting of the judicial branch will just help the United Nations -- totally overstepping its proper bounds -- slide into further irrelevance. Even if the U.N. does serve a proper function in today's world, this certainly is way beyond its domain.

    Hey code monkey, learn electronics! Microcontroller kits for the digital generation. []

    • by BitterOldGUy ( 1330491 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:45AM (#24997845)

      If the tech community makes enough buzz about this, it's likely that we can put the pin back in this grenade. Nobody is going to want to support violating the sanctity of The Internet in an important U.S. election year!

      I'm assuming you're being serious. Everything that I've heard on TV and radio regarding what the typical voter is concerned about has nothing about the internet. Folks are voting on: the economy, taxes, abortion, the wars, our security, and whether or not the candidate believes in Jesus enough. No internet.

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        Also this proposal will only be "on the table" in a year from now, by that time the 2008 elections have already been held.

    • they can paint this as "needed for the war on terror" and you'll have plenty of support for snooping on internet traffic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sploxx ( 622853 )

      If the tech community makes enough buzz about this, it's likely that we can put the pin back in this grenade.

      This ironically reminds me of the title of a nice (and rather old) text [], which sadly sounds almost like prophecy now.

  • by nathan.fulton ( 1160807 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:27AM (#24997783) Journal
    The United Stats (TFS:"The U.S. National Security Agency is also participating in the "IP Traceback" drafting group") and major western corporations (PDF linked from article []) also support the proposal. What a surprise.

    "What's distressing is that it doesn't appear that there's been any real consideration of how this type of capability could be misused," said Marc Rotenberg"
    Wait... How can you correctly use this service? It seems like something only the clandestine agencies and major corporations of the world would like to see happen.

    Anyways, according to TFS, this proposal would almost certainly have to modify existing protocols. Can't that be blocked by the CS/Engineering community members who sit on respective committees? Can international/national governments really force IETF to do something, as the article claims?
  • Bellovin's take (Score:5, Insightful)

    by philgross ( 23409 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:52AM (#24997871) Homepage
    Steve Bellovin (granddaddy of IP firewalling) gives his (strongly negative) opinion here []. He points out that it would be in seeming contradiction to the UN Charter.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. - Benjamin Franklin

    • Ah, but those who doubly qualify their bold statements with broad, limiting modifiers will find their main point somewhat debiggened.

      For Franklin must certainly have believed that non-essential liberties were perfectly reasonable to give up in exchange for reasonably long-term safety, or he would not have supported the formation of any government at all.

  • What really irritates me is that just sending or receiving an e-mail from a particular address, or even general location, could be enough to get you well and truly screwed. Time for some kind of that includes a whole bunch of off-shore infrastructure that scrubs stuff thoroughly on its way from A to B. One without a bunch of fascists in the driver's seat.

  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @10:32AM (#24998083) Journal

    Just look at your POTS phone service. Here the government has been able to add laws and taxes for over half a century. And they have: Full traceback, full surveillance access as well as: Access tax, federal excist tax, state tax, local tax, Universal service tax, 911 tax, LNP tax and TRS tax.

    Expect the internet to be worse than this over time.

  • What struck me about this, is the fact that such things always seem to be designed by committee. I'm currently in the process of designing network hardware, and every time I look at IPv4 I can't help thinking: there's 8 too many bytes in the IPv4 header. One should have source and destination addresses, a length, a ttl and sub-protocol number. Everything else is just design-by-committee candy. That leads to two conclusions (for me at least): if you want to make a good spec, you should keep things simple

  • by Anonymous Cowdog ( 154277 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:10AM (#24998277) Journal

    The UN Human Rights Council was recently taken over by extremist Islamic states, who redefined the role of the council as protecting the world from "abuses" of free speech.

    So China now has an ally in the UN.

    In a few years, "unislamic" content providers will start to feel the heat.

    • HA! I wish. Instead the UN "Human Rights" Council will just spend its time trying to wipe Israel off the map in word (since they've failed so repeatedly to do so in deed).

  • Ya, cant let our citizens speak out without being identifiable by the government.

  • ... prohibits all secrecy with regard to laws, or the development processes for all laws.

  • I know, I know — America's NSA is "in on it" too (and most will, no doubt, suspect, that their participation is due to the worst intentions). But, at least, they are our spies — subject to our laws, responsible to our lawmakers.

    Any increase of control over the Internet by the UN automatically means increase of control by China, Russia, et al. "The world", which, for example, is still unsure, who did 9/11 [] talks about being "multipolar" — they should be careful, what they wish for...

    • On the other hand, who cares what 64% of Germans think? Or anyone else? I don't care what 100% of my fellow Americans think. Other than the few people in the intelligence community that actually deal with the reality of this, nobody else's opinion matters one little bit because it is just that: opinion. And the intelligence folks who probably know exactly what went on aren't talking, and can't be depended upon to tell the truth even if they were, so I don't care what they think either.

      I'm so goddamn sick
  • ... then it will just be hacked by spammers and the origin will be forged.

  • Them first (Score:3, Informative)

    by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @01:08PM (#24999111) Homepage

    I find it incredibly backwards that China is asking for this. It is practically impossible to get any kind of justice from China, which is why a large number of hosts treat Chinese IPs as hostile. If you get scammed by someone within the great firewall, there is no legal recourse.

    If China wants to play with the rest of the world, they need to start playing by our rules. I'm sure we all want to tap into their demographic, but until we can do that in a safe and controller manner, I don't see any reason why we should grant them any privileges.

    With privilege comes responsibility.

  • The potential for eroding Internet users' right to remain anonymous...

    There is no such right.
    You don't own the internet, and you don't have any rights, other then perhaps consumer rights from your ISP (minimum level of acceptable service, etc).

    Its like suggesting we have a right to force power companies to supply power to anonymous homes. Theres no such thing. You can ask to remain anonymous to your power company, but thats upto the power companies to decide, otherwise they can decline (which they almost always would)

    Being anonymous on the internet isn't a right, its not even

  • It's been a longstanding chronic misinterpretation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to conclude that anything in those documents attempts to define anonymity as a "right". No one has a right to be anonymous. You might get away with remaining somewhat anonymous in this or that context - say, the Internet - for a period of time, but it's not a right. "No man is an island"... ever heard that cliche? What it means is that what you do has an effect on others around you, unless you actually live alone o

  • If only the autorities spent as much energy doing something REAL about burglars (house breakers), muggers, rapists and all the other low-lifes that make everyday law abiding people's lives a f-ing misery.

  • by Duncan Blackthorne ( 1095849 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @02:13PM (#24999619)
    It's no surprise at all that China would be driving this process; it just further drives the point home that the Chinese government is oppressive to it's citizens and couldn't care less about the basic human rights of it's citizens. Those people, who wish to just live their lives in peace, have my pity and sympathy.

    While I, as a citizen of the U.S., find it somewhat alarming that a member of the NSA would be involved in the group that is working on this proposal, I admit that's a knee-jerk reaction. Things may have gone pretty far south in this country because of the last eight years or so of administrations, but we haven't had the First Admendment repealed either -- not that some haven't wished for it or tried (reference: G.W. Bush saying the Constitution is "only a piece of paper"). Still having a measure of belief that what the U.S. was originally founded on hasn't been (completely) destroyed, I'll foster the hope that the NSA's involvement in this is more likely largely to keep an eye on what China has brewing -- at best to keep it in check, at worst to at least see what's coming.

    Something that occurred to me while I was reading TFA: Wouldn't IPv6 be an intrinsic part of a traceback technology? We certainly all believe that IPv4 address space is rapidly running out, and that ostensibly IPv6 is going to "save us", and we've all heard that everyone on the planet could be issued an IPv6 address that personally identifies them. After reading TFA, it's more than possible that IPv6 was created in part with traceback in mind. Will this sort of technology be forced down the world's throat by the U.N.? Extremely unlikely. The U.S., for one, (as stated in TFA) would not go along with it, as it does fly in the face of the First Amendment -- although admittedly, the intelligence community, in collusion with American ISPs, already can track and trace individual's activities on the internet (or at least the less adept and less wary users). Technologies like Secure SHell, proxies, and Tor (among others) currently provide layers of protection that, I think, are adequate, and well-known to the more technically-savvy. Aside from the U.S., there are enough countries in the world that will object to this sort of technology and will not stand idly by and watch the rest of the world potentially infringe on the rights of their citizens.

    So far as I'm concerned, China can do whatever they want within their own borders. So far as I'm concerned, things like this will only increase the level of unrest with Chinese citizens and increase the possibility of uprising.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban