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US attorney, IPs and $institution – the same old story

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Thanks to the US government, my first article on this website deals with the old discussion of nation-state’s demands concerning Internet traffic records. This time it is about the US attorney and Indymedia.us. A subpoena was filled in order to get all the logs of accessed articles of Indymedia for a particular date. EFF says that due to Indymedia’s behavior of following the EFF’s Best Practices for Online Service Provider, they did not keep any logs. Thus, they were unable to hand them over to the attorney. Additionally full disclosure was demanded from Indymedia about this ‘incident’. Well, I don’t know but for people who are familiar with the legal history especially of the US, this case does not seem new.

Let’s go back to the year 1996 and the Communication Decency Act which was followed by the Children Online Protection Act in 1998 and the ‘famous’ ACLU versus Reno case. In 2006 however, US attorney Gonzales files a subpoena duces tecum against several major search engine companies. Not agreeing with the courts’ decisions in the just mentioned cases, the US attorney was hoping to find evidence supporting his work in the files he demanded. More detailed, the DOJ demanded a list of all URL’s available to be located the search engine by July 31, 2005 and all queries/ search strings entered on the search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005. In order to avoid a too long repetition of the past, Google refused and the subpoena and the consequent motion to compel were mainly struck down by the Supreme Court based on the First and Fourth Amendment.

The interesting point is, at this time authors were already arguing that the DOJ’s demand could have only be the tip of the iceberg. They were arguing that IPs which could be traced back to the individual users and which search string they entered would be the next logical step. Thanks to the judges, there decision seemed to have stopped the DOJ from doing so. Regarding the present case of Indymedia does not make me very happy. Even though the attorney did not succeed in his attempt to gain control of the IPs, it shows us that the US government is far away from accepting the freedom and secrecy the Internet offers. It is only a matter of time when the next attorney does not have anything better to do than filling subpoenas in order to demand information which are secured at least by the First Amendment. Let us hope for the best and that the ‘country of the free’ stays free, especially when it comes down to the part of freedom which the Internet gave birth to.

I think there is another valuable statement of EFF, which should be known to all the people and institutions which are confronted with such an unbelievable violation of secrecy and fighting against the principles of the Internet. EFF highlighted the following. ‘If you’re an ISP, a web host, an email provider, an app developer, a Web 2.0 start-up or any other kind of online service provider and you receive a government demand for your users’ data, please call a lawyer.’ …and not Ghostbusters.. ‘If you don’t have a lawyer, call EFF.’

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