Lost in the ongoing media firestorm over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance activities is the discussion about concrete steps to bring the nation’s communications privacy laws into the 21st Century. Under current laws that were drafted before the advent of the commercial Internet, federal and local authorities can gain access to mobile phone and many email records without a court-issued warrant. In this post, I’ll explain what federal lawmakers and readers can do to help change the status quo.
A bill moving through the U.S. Senate that would grant the government greater power to shutter Web sites that host copyright-infringing content is under fire from security researchers, who say the legislation raises “serious technical and security concerns.” Meanwhile, hacktivists protested by attacking the Web site of the industry group that most vocally supports the proposal.
Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Protect IP Act (PDF), a bill offered by its chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would let the Justice Department obtain court orders requiring U.S. Internet service providers to filter customer access to domains found by courts to point to sites that are hosting infringing content. The bill envisions that ISPs would do this by filtering DNS requests for targeted domains. DNS, short for the “domain name system,” transforms computer-friendly “IP addresses (such as 126.96.36.199) into words that are easier for humans to remember (typing krebsonsecurity into a browser brings you to 188.8.131.52, and vice versa).