They Know Where You Are Clicking, They Know When You're Awake...

The internet isn't quite a user-friendly place. We all know this. We're constantly reminded of the fact that strangers lurk on nearly every website, spending their lives in wait to learn our social security numbers. Now, in addition to all the school officials and parents and "our elders", the government has decided to warn us away, though their approach is more extreme than a simple wag-of-the-finger.
The government isn't so much concerned with your social security number, however, as it is to catching terrorists and dangerous criminals. Lately, they have complained that any previous skills they might have possessed in catching these people via communication are becoming null, as less and less people are communicating by phone, and more and more are communicating through the Internet. Now, national security officials are pressuring Congress into making all communications companies required to be capable technology-wise if the government needs to wiretap their merchandise.
All in the name of safety, my friend!
All in the name of safety, my friend!
And the fun doesn't stop there--not only is the company not allowed to refuse this "request", but all encrypted messages a suspect might have encoded using a company's software will have to be decoded instantly.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” James X. Dempsey of the Center of Democracy and Technology told a reporter for the New York Times article. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”
This law that the government is hoping to pass is one tall order. Since many programs automatically encrypt messages between users to the point that even the program itself can't unscramble it, the officers say that with this new bill, any and all communications companies must be able to decode this messages. Peer-to-peer communication software--think of programs like Skype--are required to redesign their programming to let the government poke around. Foreign providers used in the United States must also redesign their programs to "allow for interception" as well.
Considering that this is a fairly old chart, imagine how large the numbers must be right now.
Considering that this is a fairly old chart, imagine how large the numbers must be right now.
But with such difficult goals that, if the bill gets passed, apparently have to be achieved, obviously holes will be left for hackers to worm in. Such catastrophes have occurred, after all, the most famous being a Greek cellphone incident in 2005(click for article).

This isn't the first time the government's tried to take over the Internet, of course. About two years ago, the FBI began requesting for permission (click for article) to be able to have access to the whole World Wide Web. They wanted to be able to be alerted to--again, any and all--illegal activity passing through the web. Okay, the disinterested reader might say. That's a good thing, right? Terrorists shall be caught. Felons shall be jailed. Everyone goes happy, excluding the criminals--but considering they're the ones who were doing wrong, their opinion doesn't matter. Right?
If we ignore the fact that, if the government was allowed to have the World Wide Web at their fingertips, as they've been constantly pleading to, they come dangerously close to breaking the Fourth Amendment (no one cares about search warrants anyway, I suppose), they have been less than obvious about what exactly "illegal activity" is. Will lonely online gamblers suddenly find themselves behind bars? Practicing medicine--even if it's done well--without a license? Or will even all the countless sarcastic jokes made through forums, chatrooms and emails be labelled "illegal", once the humorous attitude that is always poorly conveyed through flat text online fades away?
For the transcript of the discussion between the head of FBI in 2008 and a member of the House of Intelligence, click here. You may think that this is outdated information--two whole years ago!--but considering this topic keeps resurfacing again and again, it may be only a matter of time before the govenrment finally gets their way. And considering internet terrorists are a global problem, this kind of creepy Internet-stalking might become a worldwide "solution".
And maybe one day, the government will read this, decide I know too much, and haul me away to prison for writing this.

~Written by Meredith Agran~