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Oracle of Delphi

ISPs are pressed to become child porn cops

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New technologies and changes in U.S. law are adding to pressures to turn Internet service providers into cops examining all Internet traffic for child pornography.

One new tool, being marketed in the U.S. by an Australian company, offers to check every file passing through an Internet provider's network — every image, every movie, every document attached to an e-mail or found in a Web search — to see if it matches a list of illegal images.

The company caught the attention of New York's attorney general, who has been pressing Internet companies to block child porn. He forwarded the proposal to one of those companies, AOL, for discussion by an industry task force that is looking for ways to fight child porn. A copy of the company's proposal was also obtained by msnbc.com.

Privacy advocates are raising objections to such tools, saying that monitoring all traffic would be an unconstitutional invasion. They say companies can't start watching every customer's activity, and blocking files thought to be illegal, even when the goal is as noble as protecting children.

But such monitoring just became easier with a law approved unanimously by the Congress and signed on Monday by President Bush. A section of that law written by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain gives Internet service providers access to lists of child porn files, which previously had been closely held by law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Although the law says it doesn't require any monitoring, it doesn't forbid it either. And the law ratchets up the pressure, making it a felony for ISPs to fail to report any "actual knowledge" of child pornography.

That actual knowledge could be handed to the Internet companies by technologies like the one proposed by the Australian company, Brilliant Digital Entertainment Ltd. Known as CopyRouter, the software would let ISPs compare computer files — movies, photographs and documents — against those lists. Banned files would be blocked, and the requestor would receive a substitute file provided by law enforcement, such as a warning message: "The material you have attempted to access has been identified as child pornography." The attempt to send or receive the file could then be reported to law enforcement, along with the Internet Protocol address of the requestor.

The CopyRouter relies on a controversial new technology called "deep packet inspection," which allows Internet companies to analyze in real time the river of data flowing through their networks. The pipeline would know what was passing through it. You can read more about this technology in Bob Sullivan's Red Tape Chronicles.

Child porn foes give proposal to AOL

A PowerPoint slide show from Brilliant Digital Entertainment describing the technology was passed on to AOL last month by two powerful forces in the fight against child porn: the office of New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been calling out ISPs that won't agree to block sites with illegal images, and Ernest E. Allen, the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a nonprofit given by Congress a central role in the fight.

When msnbc.com inquired about the proposal, both Cuomo's office and Allen said they were not promoting the technology, merely passing it along to a committee of Internet service providers and software companies as part of "brainstorming" on new technologies to detect illegal images.

One of the leading experts on electronic privacy in the U.S. says the proposal would clearly run afoul of the U.S. Constitution, essentially setting up a wiretap without obtaining permission from a judge.

"This would be plainly illegal in the United States, whether or not a governmental official imposed this on an ISP or the ISP did this voluntarily," John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology said after viewing Brilliant Digital's slide show. "If I were the general counsel of an ISP, I wouldn't touch this with a 10-foot pole."

A spokesman for Brilliant Digital Entertainment disputed that, saying the technology would be "non-invasive," would not compromise privacy, would be legal in the U.S. and elsewhere, and most important, would curtail the global proliferation of child pornography.

"I don't think it takes many voices before the Internet industry separates out those who are prepared to build a business on the trafficking of child sexual exploitation," said Michael Speck, Brilliant Digital's commercial manager in charge of law enforcement products. "If boxes started turning up with Pablo Escobar's special-delivery cocaine inside, they'd stop it, they'd do something about it."

How it would work

Here's how CopyRouter would work, according to the company's slide show:

* A law enforcement agency would make available a list of files known to contain child pornography. Such files are commonly discovered in law enforcement raids, in undercover operations and in Internet searches that start with certain keywords (such as "pre-teens hard core"). Police officers have looked at those files, making a judgment that the children are clearly under age and that the files are illegal in their jurisdiction, before adding them to the list. Each digital file has a unique digital signature, called a hash value, that can be recognized no matter what the file is named, and without having to open the file again. The company calls this list of hash values its Global File Registry.

* Whenever an Internet user searched the Web, attached a file to an e-mail or examined a menu of files using file-sharing software on a peer-to-peer network, the software would compare the hash values of those files against the file registry. It wouldn't be "reading" the content of the files — it couldn't tell a love note from a recipe — but it would determine whether a file is digitally identical to one on the child-porn list.

* If there were no match, the file would be provided to the user who requested it. But if there were a match, transmission of the file would be blocked. The users would instead receive another image or movie or document, containing only a warning screen.

The makers of CopyRouter claim that it can even be used to defeat encryption and compression of files in the Internet's Wild West: the peer-to-peer file-sharing tools such as Gnutella and BitTorrent. Many people use those file-sharing systems for legal traffic, such as independent artists distributing their music, or software developers sharing open-source code. But others use them for illegal traffic in copyrighted music and movies. They also are popular for distributing adult pornography, which is legal, and child pornography, which is not.

Article Continues: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27198621/

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The Law Enforcement Industry just loves to whip up a firestorm to feather their own agendas. Another case of killing a mosquito with a machine gun.

I've seen (first hand) far too many times what an over-zealous police force can do - and I am unimpressed. A woman who used to work for me said her brother (who was about 17 at the time) was arrested, had his computer seized and ended up being put on house arrest because he had child porn on his computer - but it was laying in a file with a lot of other porn that he had never even opened. Mere possession, whether the possessor is aware of it or not, can be an offense. How many people here have accepted batches of files from someone on the internet and not checked in advance what they were getting?

Law enforcement loves to find the thin wedge for which to drive through their bigger agenda. In this case, it is child porn. Who could possibly be against their crusade on child porn, right? But if they get their way on this (along with a few other issues), then they will push through their next agenda, too.

Color me skeptical.

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I am enraged!! :cussing:

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While the idea is to screen for files that's properties match known illegal files, I have a feeling this can and will get taken much further. And it's not even going to work as well as they think. Illegal files can be encrypted in any number of ways, and media files can be easily edited to change the file size and properties. It would take file-by-file examination by a real person to actually prevent the flow of "illegal files".

But this really has nothing to do with child pornography does it? We know that the government would love nothing more than to completely control the Internet and all traffic, and this is just one more "seemingly harmless/justified" step in that direction.

Edited by siegen
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1984 is upon us...

Siegen +1

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it's all just BS. non cops have to be cops and the cops have "less to do"... but yes, this is just going to raise internet rates, for no good reason.

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Sexual perverts: very BAD

Big Brother: very BAD

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