EU Politician Wants Internet Surveillance Built Into Every Operating System

from the they-just-haven't-thought-this-through dept

“Think of the children” has become the rallying cry of politicians around the world trying to push for ever-increasing Internet surveillance powers. Since nobody wants to run the risk of being branded as soft on crimes like paedophilia, resistance to such measures is greatly reduced as a result.

This approach was used in the “Declaration of the European Parliament of 23 June 2010 on setting up a European early warning system (EWS) for paedophiles and sex offenders” which:

2. Asks the Council and the Commission to implement Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and extend it to search engines in order to tackle online child pornography and sex offending rapidly and effectively;

3. Calls on the Member States to coordinate a European early warning system involving their public authorities, based on the existing system for food safety, as a means of tackling paedophilia and sex offending;

The two European politicians behind the Declaration, which seeks to extend the already intrusive Data Retention Directive, were Tiziano Motti and Anna Zaborska. Motti now wants to go even further by monitoring and storing all Internet activity in the European Union.

The press release about the launch of this new initiative was entitled “Data Retention Directive: the fight against paedophiles and sexual predators on the net, respecting citizens’ right to privacy“; it explained:

The press conference will focus on the most discussed part of the Data Retention Directive, which is under revision, and on the ‘Motti Resolution’ approved by Parliament in 2010, asking to extend this Directive to content providers (social networks etc) in order to identify more easily those who commit crimes, including paedophilia through sexual harassment on the Net (recognised as a crime by the legislative Resolution to be voted at the next plenary session in Strasbourg). This is a request which does not regard specifically the online content, which falls under the Regulation of wiretapping, but to the traffic data developed by the person uploading material of any kind on the net: comments, pictures, videos.

During this press conference, Mr Motti will present the solutions that can make possible the enforcing of the Resolution approved in June 2010, through a study provided by computer expert Fabio Ghioni, and he will answer to the objections, especially from northern Europe, to the Resolution asking for the broadening of the Directive.

As this indicates, in order to forestall the usual accusations of technical cluelessness, Motti was joined by Fabio Ghioni, described by the press release as “World Expert on security and non-conventional technologies, author of the book ‘Hacker Republic'”. Ghioni’s site carries more details about the ambitious plans, reproducing an article (in Italian) that comes from the web site of Famiglia Cristiana (Christian Family).

Strangely, there Ghioni’s project is presented not as a way to catch paedophiles, but as being about keeping personal data safe. The article talks about the fact that users willingly hand over all kinds of information to Facebook but have no control over what the company’s employees might do with it. Because of this, Famiglia Cristiana says:

it is worthwhile to evaluate the system developed by Ghioni, which is called LogBox and provides data storage for two years with features that aim to ensure fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.

It’s not exactly clear from the article how a black box that logs all your online activities and stores the data for two years will ensure those fundamental rights and freedoms, but the general drift seems to be that you will have a record of everything that you did, which you could use in court, for example, if you are wrongly accused of some misuse of the computer. What this overlooks, of course, is that it will also be a tempting target for governments who want to keep a tight rein on their citizens, or for companies that want to enforce copyright laws by monitoring alleged file sharing activities.

The LogBox system devised by Ghioni encrypts data, placing the decryption key in the hands of the authorities, a notary [lawyer] and the user of the system. Thus the digital certificate is guaranteed by the three entities, including the user, who is in control.

That sounds as if a digital hash of the connection data is encrypted with one or three separate keys – it’s not entirely clear. In theory, having three different keys, all of which were required to decrypt, could be quite secure, but it’s no proof against court orders demanding your decryption key. On the other hand, having only one shared key would be an invitation for the police to snoop through your online logs all the time. And yet the article insists:

Let’s be clear that this has nothing to do with interceptions: here we are talking about digital data, not contents. Currently the two main issues that result in a “wild west Internet” are digital identity and authentication of both the users and the service providers. Let’s take the example of social networks: currently anyone can create a fake personal profile. Let’s take the example of online paedophiles: they can be traced only if they use their own account but if, as is easy to do, they connect from a different IP address in some other country, they will never be held responsible for the criminal actions they carry out.

From this it seems that one of the key features of the black box is to make pseudonymous or anonymous activity online impossible. Again, it’s hard to see any benefits whatsoever for users ? in what way is this “respecting citizens’ right to privacy”? – but plenty for governments and the copyright industry.

Even more surprising is exactly how Ghioni wants the black box idea implemented:

The LogBox system would clarify these issues through a precise mechanism that involves the “collaboration” of the operating systems. Therefore the help of Windows, Apple, Linux will be needed. The operating systems will have to store the characteristics of all the activity logs (in practice, tables) generated by the computer that is running the operating system. That’s no small thing, because the logs would be signed digitally in such a way as to relate to a specific computer and its user. And this will be independent of any attempt to anonymize illegal activities. Ghioni insists that the costs of this operation will be extremely low.

Cost is hardly the issue. Even if the EU were to insist that Microsoft and Apple implement this black box “feature” in their products, this is simply unworkable for GNU/Linux-based systems. By its very nature, open source lets you hack the code, and so removing any such digital black boxes ? even assuming they were put there in the first place by the likes of Red Hat and Canonical ? would be relatively easy. Hacked versions would circulate online almost immediately.

The only way to stop that happening would be to forbid people from installing “unauthorised” versions or from making “unauthorised” changes to the system code once installed ? which would effectively make open source operating systems illegal in Europe. Given that the Linux kernel was created in Finland, that would be ironic to say the least.

There are other problems that will make this approach unworkable. Already people are accessing the Internet increasingly through mobile devices and e-readers; that presumably means that these too will require black boxes to track users’ every online move. In the longer term, we are moving to an Internet of things, which means that many objects in our home will have an IP address and be hooked up to the Net: does that mean there will be a black box for our toasters, perhaps?

And then there is the fact that a 2 Terabyte portable external hard drive costs around $100, making the sharing of vast numbers of files trivial even without the Internet. Do we add black boxes to hard drives? What about USB drives?

What’s worrying is that a politician can be naive enough to believe that solving this complex problem is really as easy as adding a few lines of code to an operating system ? and that he hopes to convince the European Parliament to mandate such a thing. Far better to stop invoking the “think of the children” mantra as a way to short-circuit rational discussion and instead to encourage a rational, mature debate about how these serious problems can be solved with real-world solutions.

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Comments on “EU Politician Wants Internet Surveillance Built Into Every Operating System”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“then there is the fact that a 2 Terabyte portable external hard drive costs around $100, making the sharing of vast numbers of files trivial even without the Internet. Do we add black boxes to hard drives? What about USB drives?”

Quite possibly the most misleading (and common) refrain amongst those who actively trade files. The question isn’t how much you can share from person to person, but rather the number of people you can interact with, and the speed at which you can do it.

The internet is a killer app in this regard because it allows perfect strangers to conspire to share content, legal or illegal. It allows you to conspire with tens of thousands of people to share content, and to do so RIGHT NOW. That is a hockey arena of people sharing with each other all at the same time.

With your external drive, you might be lucky to trade with that many people in your lifetime.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Totally!

Yeah! The internet is exactly like a swap meet, with dozens or hundreds of strangers exchanging goods/services for cash, and all anonymously and barely regulated!

Good thing nobody at swap meets ever does any file sharing…

Or a convention… or @ a bar mitzvahs…

Screw this. HEY AC! Why didn’t you just pull out the ol’ threadbare “if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide” bullshit excuse? Can’t you even stay on topic?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Totally!

Actually, I believe the point is that you can buy a 32GB flash drive for under 50 bucks, load up a few thousand songs (around 7000 in 128-Kbps AAC format, depending on song length…you have a few hundred hours of music), and go sell them for $50 at a swap meet. Profit, lots of people getting access to music that they didn’t pay the label for, and possibly trading with a lot of people.

The internet is a killer app in this regard because it allows perfect strangers to conspire to share content, legal or illegal. It allows you to conspire with tens of thousands of people to share content, and to do so RIGHT NOW.

So is a swap meet. Been going on for years, and not just with digital information.

I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. However, the internet is a tool. Should we put tracking devices and tiny cameras on hammers because you are able to kill someone with them?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Totally!

You could do that – but it would involve (a) actual cost, and (b) still wouldn’t have anywhere near the distribution of P2P or file lockers.

Swap meets also have an inherent risk to people selling this merchandise, because they cannot be anonymous. If the police show up and catch them (and they do often enough with counterfeit goods), they face significant punishment under criminal copyright laws.

Remove the anonymous part of the internet, and everything changes, including human behavior.

The Devil's Coachman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Totally!

Here’s a suggestion for you. Why don’t you just STFU and GTFOH. Alternatively, you could just go shit in one hand, and wish in the other, and see which one gets filled first, but I think the dilemma that would pose for you would be insurmountable. You sure seem to revel in your anonymity, you bogus twat!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Totally!

“The internet lets you connect to tens of thousands of people instantly. That doesn’t tend to happen in real life.”


Aaaaanyway, since being able to instantly connect to tons of people in relative anonymity is what makes the internet so great, let’s hope that silly LogBox thing doesn’t gain any traction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“The question isn’t how much you can share from person to person, but rather the number of people you can interact with, and the speed at which you can do it.”

Not misleading at all. You just have to do the math, really. Suppose that you have 5 – let’s say – movies. Suppose you have 5 friends which also have 5 movies each, and none of them are the same. That’s a total of 30 unique movies in this pool, and each friend could “pirate” 25 movies that they don’t have.

Now it’s just a matter of how many friends you have and how many movies they have.

Note that this was what happened in the ancient times of video tapes. Don’t tell me that it wouldn’t happen today, where it is SO easy to trade files of any kind.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The math is still way too low.

First off, if you each had five movies, the implication is that you each paid for 5 movies to start with. See, without the internet, you wouldn’t have a copy already, except for what you got from your friends.

So for there to be copied, you either purchases or rented the movie, spent the time to rip it, spent the time to prepare the files, etc. You likely put hours into preparing your content.

Your net reward? 25 other movies. But after that, you are done. Your friends don’t have more, you don’t have more – until you spend money and time to replenish. I suspect most people would give up, and nobody wants a friend who takes but doesn’t give back, do they?

5 people is nothing – the internet is on the millions scale, and without you needing to know who they are, arrange a time, plan a meet up, spend the time to copy the files five times, and so on.

Nobody has that many friends. It’s the internet’s advantage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The guy you’re responding to is a moron. Even before the Internet was as popular as it is now, I knew people who had HUGE repositories of pirated content and they would sell that content to people they knew for dirt cheap (and that content wasn’t acquired via the Internet either, since bandwidth was too slow). Even now, I’ve heard of people who go to various places where they sell large collections of pirated content (physical copies of CD’s and DVD’s) for dirt cheap. Now that everyone can have just about every song on a single hard drive, it would be much easier for anyone to gain access to any song they want without the Internet. We may not have such distribution systems set up now, but believe me, if you regulate the Internet sufficiently, very efficient sneaker net systems will arise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You Internet kids are so adorable. You are so stuck in it that you can’t even conceive the kind of stuff that can be achieved without it.

Long before the Internet, people traded movies and songs. Ask your dad about it. Closing your eyes and pretending that it didn’t happen won’t change reality. It’ll only prove, once more, that those that fail to remember the past, tend to repeat it all over again.

Good luck to you.

Rabbit80 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Kind of reminds me of the days when I had an Amiga… Over 1000 cracked games and they were all copies (despite having no internet!)

I only ever used to trade with maybe a dozen people at best!

The next big thing (again) will be sharing with randoms over bluetooth – Version 4 of the protocol boasts WiFi comparable speeds and distances up to 60m. With phones now having up to 64Gb storage, it will be pretty easy to swap 20 or 30 movies with strangers virtually anywhere!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So for there to be copied, you either purchases or rented the movie, spent the time to rip it, spent the time to prepare the files, etc. You likely put hours into preparing your content.


I just copy everything I don’t even bother with transcoding, that reduces the quality, I just copy the entire DVD it takes 5 min to do so, something I would have had to do anyways if there was no internet pal.

This is how you bypass any security feature with only a video player, if it can play it, it can rip it.

mplayer -dvd-device /media/BigBird/pirate/VIDEO_TS dvd://6 -alang en -slang none -dumpstream -dumpfile /media/pirate/Movies/Thor.mpeg

It takes also minutes to do so. All modern video players allow you to do that.

Even before things were in the millions in scale how do you think stupid the Russians in the ex-USSR got to know Michael Jackson and knew the lyrics to his songs in his first concert there after the meltdown?

Frak, it was even a capital crime, if the authorities caught you with western music or movies you die and people did it anyway, and somehow you are saying that you will succeed where dictatorships failed?

They killed people and failed to stop sharing, this is not a technological problem, it is a cultural one and if people don’t want to respect you they never will and there is nothing you or anybody can do about it.

AJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“t allows you to conspire with tens of thousands of people to share content, and to do so RIGHT NOW. That is a hockey arena of people sharing with each other all at the same time.

….. meanwhile, at the Buggy Whip Empire Headquarters..

Good god man, can’t you see! The car manufacturers are conspiring to build more cars, making them more affordable, turning the earth into a giant parking lot! If we could just make people have to push their cars, and use our legislative power to put square wheels on them, we could save our mighty buggy whip empire…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I have a question for you AC. How is it, that in an article about adding surveillance to Operating Systems for (essentially) our “protection”, that you focus on only that one aspect of the entire article? The 2 TB portable external hard drive.

I do not want to discuss file sharing in any way, shape or form. I just want to know how in all of what you just read, that’s the only thing you focused on.

Do you not care that they want to now see what you’re doing 24/7 on your computer? Are you okay with that? I mean, I for one like my privacy. Does this not bug you in the least?

We are slowly becoming a world full of people who seemingly want to trade up all their liberties because of a few scoundrels (terrorists, file sharers, drug pushers/users, etc.), and want to do so with nary a peep and with a smile on their faces. And it’s quickly becoming, that because the majority have no problem with doing so (as I’ve heard on more than one occasion), any who question such things become branded as criminals themselves (or supporting criminal actions). As opposed to being just people who care about their rights and feel that a few bad apples does not justify having said rights impeded or trampled on. This greatly disturbs me. (And no, I’m not a file sharer. Before someone throws out the inevitable “stop wanting to justify your theft of other people’s stuff”. Because that always gets said.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I focused on the 2TB drive because it is a worn out piece of rhetoric that ignores pretty much all of the reasons why internet piracy and file trading has such advantages, and why sneakernet trading just isn’t on the same scale at all.

In context of illegal acts (such as child molesters, or terrorists, as examples), their ability to meet in the real world is very limited. They have little desire and little ability to meet up in public places. They depend on the anonymous nature of the internet to hook up with other law breakers, often separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles, to do on the internet what they would never dare to do in public.

Do I agree with the idea put forward? Not specifically. But I think they are putting forward a valid government / public interest, which is to stop the internet from being way to get around existing laws. It is why the purely anonymous internet is doomed in the long run.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It is why the purely anonymous internet is doomed in the long run.

I disagree with many points in your overall analysis, but I’ll just pick this one, as it is a worn-out piece of rhetoric that pretty much ignores the reality of technology and human behavior.

Perhaps a purely anonymous internet is doomed, but we don’t have, and have never had that anyway. What we do have is a communications medium that allows people to interact anonymously if that is an important activity to them.

And that is absolutely not going away, because it is impossible to stop it. Anonymous interaction was possible before the internet, and it will remain possible forever after.

What can be done is to make it more difficult. Doing so will just mean that people who aren’t really interested in anonymity won’t bother. People who are motivated to be anonymous will still find a way.

Assuming the real targets of this invasion of privacy are criminals, then these efforts will fail except for the most stupid of them. And at the cost of removing yet another piece of freedom and liberty for ordinary people.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The internet is a killer app in this regard because it allows perfect strangers to conspire to share content, legal or illegal. It allows you to conspire with tens of thousands of people to share content, …

Your choice of words: “conspire to share content” is very interesting.

Is sharing culture a “conspiracy” or is it simple human nature? I view it as human nature myself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It doesn’t really matter it is exponential, I share one movie at work and it gets propagated without the internet to the whole building and after that it is seeded over the whole neighbourhoods and after that it only needs one copy to reach any other place to happen again.

That is why Friend2Friend or F2F do exist.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The question isn’t how much you can share from person to person, but rather the number of people you can interact with, and the speed at which you can do it.

Ever heard of six degrees of separation?

The fact is that person-person sharing is just as potent as the internet – the only difference is that you can’t see that it is happening. That you clearly don’t understand this point makes you about as stupid as the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal

Free Range says:

“Think of the children” – what a mistake. If we’ve learned anything at all from the last 30 years on increasing parental intrusion and control over otherwise normal children – and their naturally juvenile antics – it is that attempting to actively manage, control and shape children only f*cks up normal, great people before they have the chance to blossom. The kids are alright, for god’s sake – leave them alone! They NEED that skinned knee and that first deadly hangover. They NEED to get that F in History. Mistakes are how we learn, people.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh good god, I needed my first F on a test. I was a child prodigy, always got straight A’s…then I hit my teens, go into a test (can’t remember which one it is) and I almost have a heart attack when I got an F. It took me a while but I learned where I had gone wrong in my childhood: as a prodigy, everything in primary school had been incredibly easy, so I never actually struggled or put forth any real effort into anything. This meant that that first F I got was on a test that I hadn’t prepared for: I’d assumed that I would just sail through it like I’d always done.

Enough says:

I’m tired of politicians and governments using child porn as an excuse to try to take away our rights, privacy and freedom.

From this point on, I want distribution and possession (but not production) of child pornography to become LEGAL so that the assaults on our rights, privacy and freedom stop! Politicians who support this will receive my vote.

out_of_the_blue says:

The "Internet of things" will be ratting you out.

While ranting over this particular Logbox gadget, you ignore that soon /every/ gadget connected to the Internet /will/ be reporting on you, to everyone.

You missed a major use of tracking in “a tempting target for governments … or for companies that want to enforce copyright laws” — ADVERTISING, especially Google. You left it out because you obviously think advertising is /good/. Perhaps you think you’ll like being tracked by GPS and called on your cell phone to hear an advertisement for every restaurant you get near — but you won’t. Perhaps you think you’ll /like/ your toaster reporting what kind of bread you use in it (bar code scanned), your settings, how often you use it, and when — but you won’t: just that seemingly trivial data can enable annoying targeting besides a good guess at your lifestyle. Advertisers look forward to monitoring your every move even more than gov’t, and will become like electronically-enabled mosquitoes, large numbers of them pestering you endlessly.

el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: The "Internet of things" will be ratting you out.

Tinfoil hat much? Some of us don’t like being advertised to. We have adblock, we use noscript. We don’t watch TV.

I will grant you that rampant advertising does have privacy implications, but we aren’t quite to the point where my toaster is telling Google that I like sourdough and roll down my stairs singing Journey in the morning (not really…).

There will always be a way to stay anonymous. As a software developer I promise you that. I don’t care if I have to quit my cushy gig and go back to writing code 8 hours a day, like-minded geeks will band together and as always fix the problem.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: The "Internet of things" will be ratting you out.

He isn’t talking about real advertisers, he’s talking about telemarketers and other scammers that always bother you with their stupid scam phonecalls and emails. Not sure why it’s “will” like though, they’ve been doing it forever and it’s not changing anytime soon. They scam your info from whatever illegal means (they have it however they got it, internet, credit cards, stores selling them your info, other scam fake givaways, whatever) and call you from the safety of the stupid U.S. all the time. It’s really annoying and one more means of scamming your info won’t make a lick of difference.

MAC says:


No one has asked the right question. It’s kinda like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when they got back 42.
What do they really want to use the LogBox for?

And don’t tell me it’s to track child pornograhers…

That’s a ruse to cover the real purpose.

What is the real purpose of this? I can think of all sorts of draconian reasons.

anonymous says:

this part i find VERY worrying: ‘in order to identify more easily those who commit crimes, INCLUDING paedophilia through sexual harassment on the Net’.
this is just going to be used as a further means for the entertainment industries to track, identify, prosecute and get extortionate fines and/or imprisonment dished out for so-called file sharers/copyright infringers. no way is it about protecting children or anyone else from sexual predators! yet another bought and paid for politician, who hasn’t got a frigging clue!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I’ve suggested it before and I still think it is the best idea. I suggest that before this gets inflicted on society that those in charge of the vote need to have it applied to them for at least 2 years. They need to always get the maximum punishments, and maximum use of the law in their cases.

I’m sure no law maker would object to this kind of monitoring of their lives. *giggle*

Trails (profile) says:


“Therefore the help of Windows, Apple, Linux and every single Linux user (please don’t comment out our snoop code and recompile!!) will be needed. Also, it would require no one to alter the relevant executable code of their OS, for non-OSS systems. Given these impracticalities I am killing this idea now, please go back to your regularly scheduled programming”

Douchebag hater says:

Dipshits abound in politics

Perhaps the dipshit politicians in the EU should be worrying more about their imploding economies and crushing debt levels. Instead they’re worrying about this crap. No wonder the EU is the biggest piece of shit organization in the world – take all the bad politicians, stick them in one organization and voila, you have the EU.

Qyiet (profile) says:

Weak link: houses?

I think it’s high time that all new houses were built with cameras recording all the activity in the house for two years. Don’t worry though, because the government will only review the footage if you are accused of child pornography.

It may be possible to retrofit old houses and this should be done as much as is practical, there is nothing we shouldn’t do to protect children from these predators.

PaulT (profile) says:

“Therefore the help of Windows, Apple, Linux will be needed.”

It’s been said, but this comment is the best proof that (yet again) someone’s trying to legislate without understanding what they’re trying to do.

You can’t get the help of “Linux”. The only thing you can do to guarantee that the feature is in all versions is to include it in the kernel, but you can’t force the individual distros to compile with it activated. Even if they did, how could you force people to install that version? Even if they could, it would be a matter of hours before someone released easy instructions on how to recompile the kernel in such a way that the feature is deactivated (but possibly pretends to be activated for remote tests). Then what about travellers? You can’t force tourists from outside the EU to use a specific OS on their laptops, and even if you could there’d be nothing to stop them selling the OS to an EU citizen once here.

Once that’s done, and everything from business to individual liberty is destroyed, all the paedos would just switch to FreeBSD – or better yet, just use a live CD of an old Ubuntu distro for their browsing.

Yet another waste of time and money that has thousands of better ways to be spend. But of course, it’s “for the children”, so nobody in power will lose anything over such waste.

Unix Geek says:

They are going to rely on M$ to make something like this? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!! When has M$ EVER made something that was not cracked?

This will be reverse engineered and exploited in a matter of days (if not hours) and will be another big waste of effort and money.

the linux/unix community would strip this crap out of the code in a very short time. Then there are the millions of people who have 100’s of different operating systems archived. Easy work around, just use an older OS

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