Judge Orders FBI To End ISP Spying

Dennis Faas's picture

For many of us in the tech world, security is of absolute importance. We invest in anti-virus and anti-spyware software, use cryptic passwords, and look over our shoulder whenever entering log-in names. Few of us would expect that none of these measures could protect us from one foe: the FBI.

How many of us support the U.S. government's Patriot Act, a measure instituted by the Bush administration not long after the September 11th attacks? Many simply don't realize what the Patriot Act includes; although Michael Moore touched on it in his controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, the act itself has come under legal pressure as of late. Why? Because, as Moore hinted towards, it violates the United States Constitution.

Last week, a U.S. district court judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was wrongfully stepping over the Constitution by obtaining Internet Service Provider (ISP) subscriber records without first informing customers. That sneaky little measure, which could include the FBI getting its hands on your billing, calling, and Internet browsing records, previously existed because of the Patriot Act, which many critics see as a modern-day euphemism for informational martial law. (Source: wired.com)

Judge Victor Marrero ordered the FBI and the Department of Justice to immediately end its policy of demanding ISPs provide their customers' private records. In the past, neither department informed the parties being investigated. (Source: pcworld.com)

In a clear assertion of the FBI's wrong-doing, Marrero found that their policy under the Patriot Act infringed upon free speech, and thus violated the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Although few of us would ever know if the FBI was investigating our Internet records, according to reports the Federal Bureau's program has ballooned to epic proportions. Although it started with just over 8,000 requests for ISP customer details during the year 2000, that number reached 56,000 by 2004. There's no confirmation that this number has risen higher, although it's certainly a safe bet. (Source: pcworld.com)

Thankfully, Marrero's decision may prevent the FBI from investigating an ISP's customer's personal records in the future (although an appeal and review have been filed).

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