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Court: Feds Can Read E-mail, IP Addresses Without Warrant

Discussion in 'News' started by HellasVagabond, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. HellasVagabond New Member

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    A few weeks back, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued an important ruling about Internet privacy—or lack thereof. Reaction to the case has been mixed; some commentators see it as a logical extension of existing telecommunications policy, while others view it with the same sort of enthusiasm generally reserved for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Given the importance the case has already taken on, let's take a look back at the decision and at some recent reaction to it.

    The court's ruling was essentially a simple one. The government is currently allowed to deploy "pen registers"—devices that can record every telephone number a suspect dials—without a warrant, since a list of telephone numbers is considered only addressing information and not content. This is analogous to the US Postal Service, where anyone can read information on the outside of an envelope but can't look at the contents. The Ninth Circuit ruled that grabbing e-mail addresses and IP addresses without a warrant amounts to the same thing, and is legal. This is the first time that a federal court has ruled on the issue.

    The case in question is US v. Forrester (PDF). The government charged two California men with attempting to set up a massive ecstasy lab inside an insulated sea/land container near Escondido. As part of the investigation, the Feds "applied for and received court permission to install a pen register analogue on [one of the defendants'] computer." That device, which despite the court's language was actually installed at the defendant's ISP, captured the defendant's to/from e-mail addresses, the IP addresses of web sites that he visited, and the total volume of information sent from his account.

    According to the court, all of this is functionally identical to a traditional pen register that captures only telephone numbers, and the court therefore ruled that it does not even qualify as a "search." This means that the defendant could not challenge the move on Fourth Amendment grounds of unreasonable search or seizure.

    "We conclude that these surveillance techniques are constitutionally indistinguishable from the use of the pen register," wrote Judge Raymond Fisher. The data collected "reveal no more about the underlying contents of communication than do phone numbers."

    Not everyone agrees. On Thursday, the EFF took issue with the decision, saying that it "relies on a faulty analogy." The way they see it, e-mail addresses (such as "VoteBush@aol.com") and IP addresses do reveal content, not just addressing information. I asked the EFF's Derek Slater how this differed from phone numbers; after all, repeatedly dialing the Aryan Nation might also tell the Feds a few things. "You're right that phone numbers can easily be connected to a 'who' and a 'when' (e.g., Aryans, 8 PM), and so can IP addresses," Slater tells Ars. "But you can't as easily connect a phone number to the 'what' (the content of a conversation), whereas the IP addresses can be linked with other transactional info to do so."

    Professor Shaun Martin of the University of San Diego School of Law agrees. Writing recently about the case on his blog, Martin notes, "Once the government records that I'm going to the IP addresses for NAMBLA and High Times and Bondage.com, the fact that they won't (initially) know which particular page of those sites I choose to view hardly matters. They've already invaded my privacy and know a boatload about me that I'd rather not reveal to the government."

    But Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, doesn't see it that way. In a posting on popular legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy, Kerr argued that—so long as the surveillance was done at the ISP's office—"the result in Forrester is clearly correct."

    In any event, readers interested in building a $10 million per month drug lab in the backyard should be aware that the government can get a list of all the phone numbers you call, the IP addresses you visit, and the people you e-mail.

    Source: Ars Technica
     
  2. mdm-adph

    mdm-adph New Member

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    ...is this a surprise to anyone? Whether or not they have the legal right is irrelevant -- the government has always done what it wants, when it wants, and how it wants to, and there's pretty much shit-all you can do about it.

    Apparently this guy's never heard of ECHELON.
     
  3. HellasVagabond New Member

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    Echelon is used to trace specific words and or phrases in emails, sms, conversations...Aint exactly the same.
     
  4. ex_reven New Member

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    meh, the NSA has the capability to record all phone conversations in the US at any one time anyway...lol, with the amount of money they pour into it, youd actually HOPE that they could record every phone conversation simultaneously :p

    I bet you they can. And I bet you they do :)
     
    10 Year Member at TPU
  5. mdm-adph

    mdm-adph New Member

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    Not the same as IP tracing, but it is the answer to "How do you connect a phone number with content?"
     
  6. WarEagleAU

    WarEagleAU Bird of Prey

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    funny thing is, its our civil liberties going out the door. I doubt much there are many terrorists based in the USA, but then again Id be surprised at the actual number. The government has gotten so worried that our Democracy is slowly declining and becoming something else.
     
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  7. Seany1212

    Seany1212

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    . . . Revolt :rockout:
     
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  8. newconroer

    newconroer

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    WarEagleAU Quote:
    "funny thing is, its our civil liberties going out the door. I doubt much there are many terrorists based in the USA, but then again Id be surprised at the actual number. The government has gotten so worried that our Democracy is slowly declining and becoming something else."
    /end

    Uh actually, that happened back in the 60s, when the United States military handbook removed the use of the definition "Republic" and had it changed to "Democracy."

    America has declined terribly since the late 60s. Coincidence?


    I really don't care if the government 'spies.' We're at a day and age where things are completely out of control, and extreme situations call for extreme measures. If people don't like it, then maybe they should cut the bleeding heart bullsh** and start helping to get rid of trouble makers that the government's trying to go after.

    But no, they'd rather worry more about Starbucks, Madonna's new adopted child and what hair style David Beckham will have next.
     
  9. kwchang007

    kwchang007 New Member

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    I don't think so. This is drawing on the previous ruling of the government being able to see who we call. Although I can say this is very uncomfortable. Now you may want to think twice about using limewire. The thing that really bothers me and is my biggest problem is what happens if you connect to someone over a game (say you're hosting a server) and that person has their IP "penned". Would they then "pen" my ip, or would they just leave me be. I think the answer is they would "pen" me. My point is you could be so easily have your privacy invaded for no reason, I also think that the whole thing about recording the phone numbers should have a warrant required, along with this.

    @newconroer: One, I believe our government is a Democratic Republic. If we were a true democracy, the whole country would have to vote on every law. However we don't, we elect or representative who vote for us, and the government is a democracy because it's ruled for the people, by the people. Things are not completely out of control, you call the peace we have inside the nation out of control? It's obviously not. We have taken the war to them, and for now it stays there. We are not in an extreme situation unless you are also considering Iraq. It's not that easy to help law enforcement get rid of terrorists, and if it was you would see many more people do it. Oh and people worry about those things because they are interesting. Not to mention, if everyone was always looking over their back for a terrorist our country would collapse. As you walk down the street someone reaches into their pocket....are they pulling out a gun? Probably not, and at any rate, it's better people are thinking about good things rather than bad, being optimistic is far better than being pessimistic.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2007
  10. Kreij

    Kreij Senior Monkey Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, the Ninth Circus Court judgements get reverse by the Supreme Court of the US a lot.

    quoted from : Center for Individual Freedom Foundation

    So I would not get too worried about it until the SCOTUS has a chance to review it. (If it goes that far)
     
  11. Jonnycat New Member

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    The problem occurs when the government starts expanding the definition of terrorism to include lesser crimes like drugs or filesharing. If we are going to give the government expanded powers and increased funding, due to, as you say, "extreme situations", then they had damned well limit those powers and monies to bona-fide terrorists, like al-queda and hezbollah, and not some hick growing weed in California foothills.

    Terrorists are real, and it is only a matter of time before they strike here again; it is urgent that we remember to keep that focus until the threat is eliminated.
     
  12. HellasVagabond New Member

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    A goverment should be afraid of its people/citizens , not the other way around...

    That line used to mean a lot....In nowadays especially in the USA i dont think it does.
     
  13. Kreij

    Kreij Senior Monkey Moderator Staff Member

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    As long as we can keep our 2nd Amendment rights, they have to behave somewhat ;)

    Almost everyone I know owns guns.
     
  14. newconroer

    newconroer

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    Kreij, while they may be interesting, they appease aesthetical, momentary persons, who have no knowledge of or interests in real issues. They're priorities are so far off, that they do nothing or cannot do anything about 'real' issues.

    You are correct, we shouldn't have to worry, or look over our shoulders.

    As I said, if they'd get their heads on straight, and focus on real problems, things might be better off.

    Government tapping phone lines bleh it's not a travesty. Don't pull out the arguement of unconstitutional, that can easily be slammed by all the 'ammendments' made by the influence of the left.

    Ruby Ridge was a real travesty by the government, only to be succeeded by Waco.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/conger3.html
    http://www.cato.org/dailys/08-21-02-2.html

    This a perfect example of people's wrongful social hysteria. The "Aryan Nation" poses little threat to the world. Even bleeding hearts who act like they cower in fear at the idea of white power, know full well there will be no pseudo-Nazi uprising any time soon. It's just an excuse for them to nit-pick. The problem arises when noone stands up and takes the objective stance, that it is not illegal to be a part of the "Aryan Nation" as it's not illegal to be a "Black Panther." Thanks to left influence, modern society prioritizes things back to front. Therefor, we have pressure upon the government to involve themselves in situations of false threat. Ruby Ridge is an unfortunate case of the government acting upon pressure by the mobocracy, er sorry I mean democracy, that's fueled by ignorance and numbers, "mob rule." Too often we forget Benjamin Franklin warned vehemently about the failure to respect a Republic, and the consequences of letting it spiral downwards into a democracy.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2007
  15. driver66

    driver66

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