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Reno gets her teeth into Carnivore

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US Attorney General and everyone's favourite gal Janet Reno has said she'll launch a review into Carnivore - the FBI's automated tapping system for ISPs. "I'm taking a look at it now to make sure that we balance the rights of all Americans with the technology of today," she said with depressing predictability.

The Carnivore system requires a court order and is plugged into a suspect's ISP, allowing all emails and traffic to be tracked and recorded. Since its use is likely to be deemed legal by official bodies, the American Civil Liberties Union took a different tack and formally complained that since the system was plugged into an ISP, which hundreds of other people use at the same time, it invaded privacy since all those people's personal information was equally accessible. Since the FBI has proved itself not entirely trustworthy in the past, the complaint is likely to strike a chord with privacy-aware Americans.

Reno realised the situation (she claimed she only started looking at Carnivore after a slew of newspaper articles in recent days) and tried to remove the sting quickly. "We are looking at it to see what is needed, if anything," she said. "If additional regulations are needed, we will pursue those." Ain't it great how a sentence can mean everything and nothing at the same time?

"I just want to make sure that industry, privacy interests, law enforcement interests are all fully advised so that we can consider anybody's concerns and make sure that we address them," Reno said. And we believe her. Just a shame that in the meantime the FBI is entitled to continue as it wishes. ®

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