“The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed,” according to a story posted Tuesday on ZDNet, a technology news website.
Agents engaging in investigations appear to be amassing huge databases of data on thousands of Internet users, rather than eyeing the activities of particular suspects — similar to the sweeping approach employed by the National Security Agency. The NSA wiretaps program drew congressional uproar after it was revealed the program was taking place without supervision by a court.
“Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI’s Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000,” ZDNet’s Declan McCullagh writes. “It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, and may stretch the bounds of what’s legally permissible.”
McCullagh calls it “the vacuum-cleaner approach,” a technique used when police have obtained a court order but the suspect’s Internet provider can’t isolate an individual by their IP address — the series of digits that identify an individual computer.
“That kind of full-pipe surveillance can record all Internet traffic, including Web browsing — or, optionally, only certain subsets such as all e-mail messages flowing through the network. Interception typically takes place inside an Internet provider’s network at the junction point of a router or network switch,” McCullagh writes.