Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just as with COPA, govt. goes after Amazon used-book records, then drops the matter

Back during the prequels to the COPA trial in 2006, the government asked for search engine records to see whether visitors were looking for “prurient” material on the plaintiffs’ sites. Eventually a modified request was granted (without identifying the visitors). In the past few years, however, as on a recent FBS Frontline and “America at a Crossroads” report, the government has obviously been tracking millions of online communications in order to try to identify terrorist threats, with some of the material going through super computers at the National Security Agency between Washington and Baltimore.

However, in a victory for privacy, federal prosecutors dropped a subpoena for the identities of people who bought used books from a certain Amazon reseller, in a case where the reseller was being pursued. The AP story by Ryan J. Foley is “Government Drops Pursuit of Used-Book Buyers,” p D3 of the Washington Post, Nov. 28, 2007, here . Similar concerns have been raised about Patriot Act provisions that would allow the government to seek library records and gag librarians from disclosing the requests.

What could be interesting if some other version of a COPA-like law (from the “Enough is Enough” effort (such as the Internet Safety and Child Protection Act of 2005, S1507), or “DOPA”, H5319, passes and then is challenged on grounds similar to that of COPA. The government is likely to need or want to fish for Internet records again.

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