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Privacy Rights Advocates Wary of Justice Department’s Online Surveillance Plans

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According to a report from McClatchy News, the U.S. Justice Department is currently in negotiations with large Internet service providers (ISPs) in the hopes of improving their ability to monitor online traffic.

The report says that the Justice Department is seeking new guidelines that would allow federal officials to track website traffic for domestic online users.

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) is among an array of rights advocates that are leery of the proposal. “I don’t think it’s realistic to think that we would create this enormous honey pot of information and then say to the FBI, ‘You can only use it for this narrow purpose,’” CDT’s Leslie Harris told McClatchy. “We have an environment in which we are collecting more and more information on the personal lives of Americans, and our laws are completely inadequate to protect us.”

Currently, the FBI does not need a court order to ask an Internet provider for online records relevant to an investigation. The CDT’s Harris will be testifying this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the subject of government data mining.

According to the CDT website, “The Department of Justice wants to force Internet service providers to retain massive amounts of data regarding their customers’ Internet usage–ostensibly in order to bolster the ability of law enforcement to investigate child exploitation and national security cases. No bills have been introduced yet, but several lawmakers have signaled their desire to move on the Justice Department’s request…. Forcing ISPs to retain information for millions of customers raises significant privacy concerns, greatly increases the likelihood of data breach and identity theft, and imposes significant costs on ISPs that would be passed on to customers.”

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