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U.S. Politicians Propose Operators of Wi-Fi Keep Logs for Two Years

 5:03 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

U.S. Politicians Propose Operators of Wi-Fi Keep Logs for Two Years [news.cnet.com]
Republican politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.
"A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user."

Translated, the Internet Safety Act applies not just to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and so on--but also to the tens of millions of homes with Wi-Fi access points or wired routers that use the standard method of dynamically assigning temporary addresses. (That method is called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP.)

"Everyone has to keep such information," says Albert Gidari, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm in Seattle who specializes in this area of electronic privacy law.



 6:22 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

It seems like it would be rare that a business with open WiFi would be able to identify who connected even if the logs were available.


 6:39 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

For home users this is absurd--it -might- make criminal investigations easier, but it wouldn't make them much easier--and in the meantime the memory would probably be subject to tampering (to say nothing of the loss of privacy involved).


 6:39 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Politicians really should stop trying to regulate things they don't understand.


 6:50 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Short of being able to trace something after you catch the culprit, it's not going to be that helpful. So you know that a computer from address whatever hacked your site...so you go backtracking addresses until you hit a wifi point. How in the heck do you find the next computer back even with the log?! Unless you physically have that device in your possession, all you have is a MAC address that doesn't really help you find the device in question.


 6:59 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Valid points all, but we're forgetting the most important thing here:

"While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children,"

And, of course, it will also help us catch terrorists.

You DO want to catch child predators and terrorists don't you?

Note that this law would even apply to security enabled WI-FI. It's a wonder they don't throw bluetooth enabled cell phones into the mix too.


 7:08 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference on Thursday. "Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family level."

He said the two magic words in the same sentence ... children and family. For the win!


 7:58 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

If they really want to do that all they have to do is regulate the wifi industry and make them add that functionality. Very few devices do this by default now.


 8:04 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

"Keeping our children safe..."

The proposed legislation seeks to presumably protect children from being viciously abused by Internet predators.

Or presumably assist law enforcement in their effort to figure out who ripped someone to pieces in a savage attack and left the unidentified corpse in a trash bag behind an Internet cafe.

All of these scenarios appear to be contingent on children having access to the Internet and thereby interacting with 'bad people' who want to meet them in person and gruesomely attack them.

If the legislature were to outlaw anyone under the age of 18 from using the Internet, that would presumably solve the REAL problem -- children having access to the Internet.

This assumes that the Internet is a teeming cesspool of child predators, etc. Fair enough. Assume the worst, and keep children away from the Internet.

Look -- many states have laws that require an individual to be 21 years of age before being able to lawfully purchase alcohol. To the extent the Internet represents a real threat to the health and safety of a child in the opinion of the legislature, would it be THAT outrageous to prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from lawfully being able to access the Internet?

There will always be enforcement problems... be it with preventing children from buying beer or preventing children from going online and later finding themselves being repeatedly abused by some Internet predator.

But I do think it's time we call a spade a spade. If the legislature feels compelled to impose draconian data retention requirements such as the ones proposed in this legislation because the Internet poses such a grave risk to children -- isn't it just time to pass a law that criminalizes the use of the Internet by children?

Wouldn't that go a long way towards making "our children safe"... ?

[edited by: phranque at 1:57 am (utc) on Feb. 21, 2009]


 8:11 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

This is nothing new. Kids have been finding #*$! that their parents had for years. Parents need to realize that an open unguarded computer on the Internet is the same thing as leaving an adult video in the DVD player or adult magazines on the coffee table.


 8:14 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Knowing John Cornyn the way I do..it's just his first step toward making wi-fi providers charge a fee for connecting to their service so it can pay for record keeping. And of course with this fee...the feds can add in another "fee"..read tax..because as you remember..the repubs don't raise taxes...just fees and fines.
If it's free then there is no way to levy government fees.
I often use a free public access wi-fi of a bank next door to my favorite cigar lounge. Either they would have to shut it down or make us register for use and charge a fee to take care of the added costs.
Thanks Cornyn..as usual, you make me proud to be a Texan.


 11:17 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

It seems like it would be rare that a business with open WiFi would be able to identify who connected even if the logs were available.

MAC address


 12:12 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

"Land of the Free", I think you can loose that from your National Song for sure now.


 1:47 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's just a proposal - written to score brownie points with the fearful segment of the uninformed electorate. It's way too whacked out to make into law under a web-savvy administration.


 1:58 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Unless mac addresses are logged, all the information is worthless. But Mac addresses can be spoofed so the information is worthless anyway with respect to prosecution (but might yield intelligence, but only if you also force manufacturers, shops, ebay, etc. to keep track of mac addresses - pie in the sky!)

In any case, I've been toying with the idea of proposing a new internet protocol that would make all this sort of data worthless - and if I can work out how to do it, I'm sure plenty of others can too!



 2:38 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Oh well, republics only last about 200-300 years so I guess we are due..

This is absolutely absurd. First of all, the piece of junk routers that they sent for my fios keep dying. With a law like this I would be a felon every time my router decided to take a dirt nap.

The scary thing is that they can go on some massive fishing expeditions.. Lets see if CG looked up "How to beat the IRS" or "best states for gun ownership" or "offshore banking". .. Or, gee, he spends a lot of time on politically incorrect websites, let's put him on THE LIST.

Something must be in the water in Washington.... Oh heck, maybe it was better as a Malarial Swamp.


 2:39 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Oh yeah, one other thing, how many home use routers out there have the memory to hold 2 years worth of data?


 3:30 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Mind you we talking about Republicans :) the people that think Palin is god send lol, anyways it will be just a waste of time.


 9:18 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

[quote]He said the two magic words in the same sentence ... children and family. For the win! {/quote]

Not really - he left out the word "crisis".

Loons to the Left of me, idiots to the Right of me. One more clue that most politicians simply don't have a clue about how the internet or most other techie stuff works.


 9:41 am on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Everywhere the same picture: Instead of investing in proper police equipment and more international cooperation in fighting crime politicians come up with stupid ideas that give the impression they are doing something when in fact they are useless.

In Finland they started blocking websites with child abuse by rerouting DNS requests to so called stop pages. Result: Consumers of such pictures simply connect to those websites by IP or switch DNS servers and the police doesn't investigate anymore but simply puts websites on blacklists. When an internet activist got hold of the list and checked the websites, she found out that some of them were hosted in the Netherlands and could have simply been taken down and the people maintaining the websites arrested by contacting dutch authorities. But nobody bothered. After all the websites were "officially not available" in Finland anymore.


 4:50 pm on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think tedster has the right of it. When the other demagogues (a.k.a. the Democrats) were out of power, THEY were making the same kind of loony proposal.


 5:17 pm on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Couldn't they just station some patrol cars at key checkpoints in those big "tubes" that the interweb runs on?


 6:35 pm on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Mind you we talking about Republicans :) the people that think Palin is god send lol...

You seem to have missed this little tidbit in the second paragraph:

..The legislation, which echoes a measure proposed by one of their Democratic colleagues three years ago, would impose unprecedented data retention requirements on a broad swath of Internet access providers and is certain to draw fire from businesses and privacy advocates...

This just shows what happens when people are closet Luddites. Personally I think they should just turn the internet off at night.

[edited by: Wlauzon at 6:42 pm (utc) on Feb. 21, 2009]


 7:04 pm on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Do they really think this'll help? Any good hacker will come in with a spoofed MAC address. Also, there is no secure wireless network as long as it broadcasts data. A good packet sniffer and a little time is all you need to crack a wireless network. It's absurd to think that law can keep up with technology.


 7:15 pm on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

This whole thing is like gun control. Gun control isn't about crimes or guns, it's about control.

This "Child protection act" isn't about kids, internet #*$! etc, it's about control.


 9:54 pm on Feb 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

It's absurd to think that law can keep up with technology.

That is the real problem I think with many - or most - of the laws written in the past 50 years or so. They address a static issue, and by the time the law is enacted, the technology has moved beyond it or workarounds have already been found.

I find it interesting that the US constitution has had so few changes, yet it still works. I think the reason is because it was written as a set of principles, not as a bunch of specific laws addressing single issues that will be obsolete before the ink is dry.

Instead of saying "if you do child #*$!, we will nail your butt to the wall", they come up with something like "if you have child #*$! on Seagate hard drives with serial numbers between 998485 and 999983 you are a bad person".

There are thousands of stupid proposals out there, but one common thread seems to be that the people pushing it have little or no knowledge of science, technology, or even basic high school math. Unfortunately, far too many politicians fall into that category.

[edited by: Wlauzon at 9:58 pm (utc) on Feb. 21, 2009]


 9:22 pm on Feb 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

I vote Nay!

There once was an awful comedian named Gallager (or something like that), but he did have ONE decent joke:

"If con is the opposite of pro, then congress must be the opposite of progress."



 10:34 pm on Feb 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Couldn't they just station some patrol cars at key checkpoints in those big "tubes" that the interweb runs on?

For all the praise that the current administration has gotten for being tech savvy, it does not extend to our vice president. On a CBS TV interview a couple days ago the anchor asked what his website was, and he was caught on camera asking an assistant for the phone number of the website.

That by the way is the same guy that criticised McCain for not being computer savvy.

Now what is scary about it is that a lot of the $800 billion is supposed to be going for tech and tech infrastructure, like major FIOS projects.
...As part of his effort to guide the spending of the nearly $800 billion stimulus package, President Obama has established a Web page, www.recovery.gov, to let Americans see where their tax dollars are going. And today he announced he's put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act...


 10:46 pm on Feb 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

The FTC (assuming this falls under their purview as its over the airwaves) has been unable to manage the switch to digital television...I doubt they'd be able to manage the WI-FI logs of a single college campus, let alone of ALL wireless Americans.

To the US government: Please use your resources to stop $50,000,000,000 Ponzi schemes from occuring -- this will be of greater use to your constituents who provide significant political contributions. It's much, much, much too late to enact reactive legislation regarding WI-FI logs...even you should have realized this by now. Leave the parenting to the parents.


 12:04 am on Feb 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Wlauzon said:

For all the praise that the current administration has gotten for being tech savvy, it does not extend to our vice president.

Glad you posted that. I spent a couple of hours going through my router trying to figure out wher ethe web phone numbers were stored. I had assumed that Joe knew what he was talking about. I think he was reviewing things while having breakfast at that closed diner in Wilkes Barre.

Seriously though, this really illustrates how out of touch our 'dear leaders' are when it comes to technology. The other issue, in today's economy, is what happens when companies go out of business. Who will be responsible to keep the logs during the two years after to closing their doors?

The other issue is the number of small 'appliances' that are wifi capable.. My kid has a wii, DS and had an ipod touch that were all wifi. Some of them didn't show up very well on my network but they were there. Add in wifi printers, picture frames etc. That is just today.

I would imagine that in 10 years, my thermostat, washer, dryer, car (some are now) toaster, pool heater, doorbell and kitchen sink will all be on wifi for one stupid reason or another....

Maybe this is just a ruse to make lawyers rich while racking up bills for the discovery process. Lawyers will get to comb through millions of records at 400 bucks an hour. Guess that what happens when you elect laywers to government.

This 31 message thread spans 2 pages: 31 ( [1] 2 > >
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