Democratic Congressman John Conyers and Republicans on his House Judiciary Committee have found common ground on a renewed effort by federal law enforcement officials to require ISPs and other Internet gateways to retain customer data for six months or longer.
Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla has raised the usual spectre of sexual predators in chat rooms as a justification. As always, FBI chief Robert Mueller is using terrorism as an excuse.
And the former liberal lion John Conyers, D-Mich, is right there with them, saying that new legislation requiring ISPs to collect and retain data on their customers "would be most welcome."
Privacy advocates had enjoyed a temporary victory when former Attorney General Alberto Gonazales resigned. Gonzales had pushed hard for such legislation.
But now the feds are back demanding more spying powers.
(The German Constitutional Court, Germany's highest court, recently ruled a similar EU initiative was an unconstitutional violation of the newly declared German right to Internet privacy.)
What can ISPs learn about you? Recent revelations about ISP "deep packet sniffing" suggest the following:
It seems certain ISPs are using a technique called deep packet inspection to spy on hundreds of thousands of internet service customers in the United States. That is a major invasion of privacy! Deep packet inspection is way to monitor your online activity keystroke by keystroke. This type of detailed, keystroke by keystroke monitoring means that these ISPs know not only who you’re emailing, what you are searching for online and what web sites you visit, they also know the contents of your emails, text messages and tweets, plus much more.
ISP marketing promoters are happy to brag about their data gathering powers:
Should they aggressively pursue such data gathering methods, ISPs may achieve a level of behavioral tracking heretofore unknown online. That's because existing behavioral targeting networks can monitor consumer activities only while they are visiting a select group of publisher partners. The largest of these networks is AOL-owned Tacoda, which has partnered with some 4,500 Web sites to enable behavioral ad targeting.
"We see search; we see those 4,000 Web sites; plus we see all the other Web sites," said Dykes. "The existing behavioral cookie-based networks only have a limited knowledge. They may have some idea you went to a travel site. That's all they know."
Dykes also noted current behavioral targeting ad networks tend to offer a limited set of consumer interest segments, for instance in-market auto buyers or mortgage shoppers. He claimed NebuAd will up the ante considerably on segmentation. "We have 800 [segments] today and we're expanding that to multiple thousands," he said. "Again, more than an order of magnitude greater ability to target people."
Tacoda Founder and AOL EVP Dave Morgan agreed, saying ISP-based behavioral tracking will result in "lots of data about smaller groups of people, as opposed to modest data about a lot of people."
Contact Conyers and the other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee to let them know your Internet privacy matters to you.
And probably a lot more effective, begin to take some steps to protect your privacy yourself. One way to do it: use a Virtual Private Network or Elite Proxy to shield your Internet activity from your ISP.