ACLU Demands UN Group End Secrecy Over Internet Tracking System

For Immediate Release

ACLU
Contact: 

Jay Stanley, (202) 675-2312,
media@dcaclu.org

ACLU Demands UN Group End Secrecy Over Internet Tracking System

WASHINGTON - The
American Civil Liberties Union and London-based Privacy International
today wrote to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to
express their concern over a process to draft technical standards that
would allow Internet communications to be traced to their origin.

"This
secretive process threatens to stifle free speech and privacy on the
Internet, and increase the ability of governments around the world to
repress dissenters and political opponents," said ACLU Technology and
Liberty Program Director Barry Steinhardt. "When the National Security
Agency and the Chinese government see eye to eye, you know you're in
trouble."

According
to press reports, the NSA and the Chinese government are both
participants in the ITU process, which has refused to release key
documents or open its meetings to the public.  The
ACLU and PI called for the ITU to end the secrecy that has surrounded
its work, admit representatives from civil liberties and human rights
groups into the group working on the issue, and look to alternatives to
the proposed mechanism, known as "IP traceback."

"It
is simply amazing that the ITU is engaged in a process aimed at a
radical change in the nature of the Internet, behind closed doors,"
said Gus Hosein, Senior Fellow at Privacy International. "The interests
of virtually every person on the planet are at stake, yet the public
does not have a seat at the table, while the Chinese government and the
NSA do?"

According
to a report by CNet News, one ITU document justifies the program as
necessary in such cases as when "a political opponent to a government
publishes articles putting the government in an unfavorable light," and
the government, "having a law against any opposition," is unable to
identify its critic. The ITU denied the authenticity of that document,
but refused to make public documents posted on its password-protected
web site.

"Whether
or not a participant in the ITU process wrote openly about suppressing
dissent, that quote sums up the effect that this effort will have,"
said Steinhardt. "Anonymity is not a problem to be solved, but a
freedom to be celebrated - and protected, especially against the likes
of the Chinese government and the NSA, which are so keen to strip it
away.

The ACLU-Privacy International letter to the ITU is online at:

http://www.aclu.org/privacy/internet/36958leg20080930.html

CNet's press account of the ITU effort is online at:

http://tinyurl.com/4hkvxp

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