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Higher Education Fears Wiretapping Law 243

alphadogg writes "Institutions of higher education are up in arms over an FCC ruling on wiretapping they say could cost them billions of dollars in upgrades, expose their networks to more attacks, and jeopardize rights to privacy and freedom of speech. "
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Higher Education Fears Wiretapping Law

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  • Why do colleges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Valar ( 167606 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:03PM (#15239908)
    hate our freedom?

    Could the answer be 'They have history departments'?
    • It's that liberal academia!
    • Why do colleges hate our freedom?" Before someone makes an absurd comment on this, I believe it is sarcasm. You have to point that out here, because sarcasm doesn't travel well in text.

      If it isn't sarcasm, what in the hell are you talking about mang?

      • Re:Why do colleges (Score:5, Interesting)

        by IAmTheDave ( 746256 ) <basenamedave-sd@ ... minus poet> on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:46PM (#15240233) Homepage Journal
        If it isn't sarcasm, what in the hell are you talking about mang?

        A parody of the current administration I can only assume...

        That said, (some) colleges are actually becoming quite notorious for having plenty of "laws" on campus that abridge or ammend what many consider to be their inalienable freedom of speech. Sure, this goes back to the argument of Congress shall make no law, not "college campuses" or the like, but still...

        Check out FIRE [] for an all-you-can-eat look at how colleges are indeed becoming politically correct havens of modified free-speech rules, inequity in education based on race, class, and sex, and the like.

        • "...olleges are indeed becoming politically correct havens of modified free-speech rules.."

          Yeah, recently, didn't an art student at some college paint some fairly unflattering pictures of muslims/terrorists and have his gallery which was scheduled to be displayed 'yanked' due to PC? I think I heard they relented and will let him display later, but, only because of free speech advocates protesting this censoring.

          Freedome from 'hearing' something disagreeable is not in the Constitution....and it wou

    • If I had mod points I'd give them all to you.
    • How can you consider wiretapping 'freedom'?

      Or were you just trying to be cute?
    • Re:Why do colleges (Score:4, Insightful)

      by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @05:03PM (#15240425)
      They hate freedom because they are liberal, and the are liberal because they are educated. That's why universities, higher education, intellectuals and people who think for themselves must be demonized.

      Don't flame me: I'm just repeating what the really angry conservatives scream at me when I ask how one terrorist attack 5 years ago makes us more at risk now (and thus necessitate giving up fundamental freedoms we have never given up before) than during the Revolutionary War, Civil War, 1812, WWI, WWII, Cold War...
      • Do you have any idea what kinds of freedoms people actually gave up during previous wars? I'll give you a hint: if there were online discussion boards during World War II and you made that post, you would have found yourself in jail. You might not have gotten out until the end of the war when the constitution was restored. I'm not saying I support Bush's power grab (or that of any previous president either) but have a little perspective. Saying you have less freedom now than anyone did ever before during ot
      • You are aware, I hope, that during a significant number of those conflicts we lost a lot more of our freedoms than we are currently discussing even the potential of losing right now...

        I'm not defending the current administration's policies, but I just think that you should be careful drawing historical comparisons before you know where they're going. President Lincoln -- who history has treated quite favorably -- declared and imposed martial law, suspended habeas corpus, and arrested people that today would probably be termed "political dissidents," including a few members of Congress. (The anti-war Democrats known as the "Copperheads" were the common target.)

        When the arrests and courts-martial were declared blatantly unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (under Taney), Lincoln simply ignored the ruling until the conclusion of the war. You can Google this, just type in "John Merryman" or check out Ex parte Merryman [] (the ruling that was ignored).

        That's one of the more well-known and egregious violations, but there are others; the persecution of the Germans in World War I, the Japanese in World War II, and a host of other things, any of which can and were argued to be necessary at the time owing to extenuating circumstances.

        So by drawing a historical parallel between 9/11 and any other "war period" in our history, you can quite easily play into the hands of a pro-oppression argument, because there is ample historical evidence for periods of relative oppression (or at least, of substantially reduced civil liberties) during conflicts, followed by a return to normalcy afterwards.
        • President Lincoln -- who history has treated quite favorably -- declared and imposed martial law, suspended habeas corpus, and arrested people that today would probably be termed "political dissidents," including a few members of Congress.

          Of course, there was gruesome live combat occuring on American soil between Americans. It's a little different when the main thing propelling the whole argument is just a spun up fear of "terrorism".

          So by drawing a historical parallel between 9/11 and any other "war perio
        • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday May 02, 2006 @01:01AM (#15243158) Homepage
          The differences are the methods used, the reasoning behind them, and the expected duration they are/were imposed. Lincoln, for example, realized that his actions were wholly irregular and should be but a temporary imposition.

          Clockwurk did a much better job of comparing the two than I could ever hope to do:
          [A]s Lincoln showed during the Civil War, there may be times of military emergency where the executive believes it imperative to take immediate, highly irregular, even unconstitutional steps. "I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful," Lincoln wrote in 1864, "by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation." Bush seems to think that, since 9/11, he has been placed, by the grace of God, in the same kind of situation Lincoln faced. But Lincoln, under pressure of daily combat on American soil against fellow Americans, did not operate in secret, as Bush has. He did not claim, as Bush has, that his emergency actions were wholly regular and constitutional as well as necessary; Lincoln sought and received Congressional authorization for his suspension of habeas corpus in 1863. Nor did Lincoln act under the amorphous cover of a "war on terror" -- a war against a tactic, not a specific nation or political entity, which could last as long as any president deems the tactic a threat to national security. Lincoln's exceptional measures were intended to survive only as long as the Confederacy was in rebellion. Bush's could be extended indefinitely, as the president sees fit, permanently endangering rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution to the citizenry. =15229298 []

          (Mod me underrated if you want to mod this post up; I don't want to karma whore off of someone else's work.)
        • Let's analyze your argument. Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR all placed restrictions on the freedom of American citizens during their respective tenures of office. Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR all are revered leaders in American history. These three presidents are revered for their actions as president. A president who restricts freedom in times of conflict is acting like Lincoln, Wilson, and/or FDR. Therefore, a president who restricts freedom is times of conflict is worthy of reverence.

          Do you really think that
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <> on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:05PM (#15239931) Journal

    Higher education vs. government decisions... I do wonder who's in the right.

  • by koreth ( 409849 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:08PM (#15239965)
    Remember, if it stops just one terrorist, it's all worth it!
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:10PM (#15239979)
    An FCC ruling? That'd be, like, the governmental agency in charge of communications.

    "The ministry of communication is duty-bound to make the use of the Internet impossible []."

    - Some dude with a pre-9/11 mindset.

    OK, so it was only three weeks before 9/11. And it was some other country. But you have to give him credit for achieving his policy objective, not only in his own country, but in his opponent's country too.

  • by Marnhinn ( 310256 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:10PM (#15239982) Homepage Journal
    I find it interesting about the things the universities are concerned with. It might just be the article, but it seems the main concern is the cost of the venture est. 400 - 500 dollars a student. The next concern is hackers and the last one is freedom of speech / stifling of research.

    I would think that the universities would be worried more about the free speech implications rather than the cost... I don't think the cost issue will hold up in court that well - but free speech (hopefully would).

    The only other thing is that the article mentions that a negative ruleing, could force even labtops on campus to be CALEA compliant. Since I'm a student at a university that requires students going into certain majors to have a labtop (to use and plug into the campus network) - I'm wondering if that means that we as students would have to modify our personal labtops (cause they interact with the campus network).

    Sadly I bet the universities will compromise on this issue - rather than go to court.
    • Labtop? (Score:4, Funny)

      by JLavezzo ( 161308 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:13PM (#15240011) Homepage
      Okay, I'll bite. You spelled it that way three times. What's a labtop?
    • I find it interesting about the things the universities are concerned with. It might just be the article, but it seems the main concern is the cost of the venture est. 400 - 500 dollars a student. The next concern is hackers and the last one is freedom of speech / stifling of research.

      We'll you have to know the audiance you are arguing to. If there was a democratic administration, perhaps voicing concern over freedoms and liberty would be the main thrust of the agrument, however with a republican adminis
      • If you think about it, 400-500 dollars per student is going to amount to the restriction of quite an important liberty - the liberty to learn whatever you're supposed to be learning about. That's going to cut into the universities' (presumably already stretched) budget for providing learning materials and so on.
    • by OctoberSky ( 888619 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:30PM (#15240133)
      While I agree with you for the most part (and entirely as a "freedom loving hippie") I have to point out some things.

      People, it seems, don't care about their freedom as much as they care about thier bank accounts. The threat of a possible Government operation taking place on campus doesn't scare too many people, but the threat of another $500 going towards the already high tuition costs does scare them.
      Most people don't understand that they are losing their liberties, liberties protected by the Constitution. These people feel that the government is going after Terrorist and Bad People and would never infringe upon the rights on Ma and Pa America. They don't care wheter or not you can burn a flag or say Bush is a complete cunt. They don't care if Apu Nahasapeemapetilon gets shipped to some camp in Cuba and no one ever knows. They don't care because they don't think it matters to Ma and Pa America.

      But,these people do care about that $500 that could go to something else, something more important than freedom, something special like thier SUVs gas bill. And the worst part..... these people Vote!

      The Universities are smart in going about this as it costing too much. Seven Billion dollars (thats $7,000,000,000) is nothing to laugh at. They realize people will get pissed off at College costing more. The Universities realize they will get more people mad about this by playing the Money Card then they probably ever could by playing the Freedom Card.

      I may be completely off base, but my years of doing the budget for my office tell me one thing... money talks.
      • Sad to say - I 100% agree.
      • People want something that cannot be guaranteed: Safety. And they are asking for it from the wrong people: Government. The Government cannot guarantee your saftey. The Government can not prevent you from dying. NO Government CAN.

        Why would you ask them for something they cannot provide? Why would you let them TRY when you know they will FAIL? That's the problem. Of course people care about their bank accounts. But the problem isn't caring about bank accounts, it's expecting the wrong things from gove
      • The real problem is that people like YOU don't realize that control of your money *IS* a freedom.

        Want to travel out of state? Going to need money. Want to call your friends? Going to need money. Want to live indoors? Going to need money. Want to have a good lawyer? Going to need money.

        For a lot of people, not having $500 makes a much more immediate and real impact on their practical freedom than the government snooping their IP traffic.

        Freedom to not be forced to spend your money on stupid shit is no
      • Money talks? It gets even better.

        The upfront cost is $500 a head. But students do plenty of illegal shit online. Harassment, mp3 trading, warzing... How much does it cost a college to lose a student because he's gone to jail? At least a semester of lost tuition and / or the cost of over-enrolling students on the expectation that some will get pinched. A drop in the number of applications because the ratings have fallen, because the graduation rate is lower. And who knows what else!

        Now, multiply that

    • It might just be the article, but it seems the main concern is the cost of the venture est. 400 - 500 dollars a student.

      Penn State has 82k students, I imagine finding 41 million dollars to blow is a pretty serious concern.

  • Once general wiretapping goes into effect on "public" internet connections in conjunction with the patriot acts 'no warrant necessary'. This will become a major revenue source for the police as they place the equivalent of automatic red light traffic tickets on any unlawful internet traffic.

    Kiss your free (as in speech) internet goodbye.
    • Well, if enough people say "Bush will Kill Preteen Shit Assassins and Fuck Bombs. Nuclear Terror Methamphetamines will be delivered at 4:20." and the like, ala spam, it might overload the system with too many false positives.

      Of course, then they'll pass a law that it's illegal to say stuff that might be construed as a false positive.

      Let's all remember that Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld are ALL citizens. We should sue them.

  • by Rick.C ( 626083 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:14PM (#15240013)
    This will require non-IT college students to learn about strong encrytion methods and the importance of using them, a lesson that will help them later on in life. It might even prompt some whiz-kids to come up with something even the NSA can't break.

    • That does pose a potential major risk. While I am a privacy nut, there are also risks to using strong encryption for everyday communications. For example, if you are applying for a job that requires a background check, what are the chances that you'll end up with a negative report because you use encrypted communications? I can see a potential employer passing over someone because a secuirty check reveals encrypted internet communications.

      I am at a university, and right now I am begining to think about the
      • by Yartrebo ( 690383 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @05:32PM (#15240656)
        Terrorism is not a valid reason. There wasn't a single instance of international terrorism in the US last year. Since 2000, less than 4,000 people have died in the US from terrorism, almost all in a single easily preventable event.

        Giving a generous 4,000 deaths to terrorism over the last 6 years (generous because there are many plausible theories about 9/11, not all of which rely on Islamic terrorists), it works out to 667 per year.

        According to wikipedia ( th_in_the_US), terrorism doesn't even make it onto the list. The leading cause of death, heart disease, kills about 1,000 times as many people. Murder, itself a rare event, kills over 20 times as many people.

        If one wanted to save lives, then there are many, many better ways to go about it. Saving one death due to terrorism has a price tag around $1,000,000,000 and comes with massive losses of civil liberties. Preventing a death due to heart disease or lung cancer costs maybe a few thousand in anti-smoking programs and has very tiny (and entirely voluntary) effects on civil liberties.

        Government waste alone probably kills more than 1 person per $1,000,000,000, via a reduced standard of living.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          You also realize that the attacks of Sepember 11th, 2001 were orchestrated by people in the United States government, not foreign terrorists. It would be much more applicable if instead of calling them the "terrorist attacks of September 11th" they were the "Reischtag fires of September 11th". That puts everything in much better perspective.

          Check this link out, it has the support of many well respected professors, and helps explain the true story.
          • I believe you (and even alluded to that in my post), but regardless of who caused 9/11, it's pretty obvious that there was political motivation behind it, and it would therefore be terrorism. Just because Bush (or one of his friends) did it doesn't make it any less a terrorist act.
    • Remember that even if your encryption is infallible, if you are protecting anything of value, monetary or otherwise, there is incentive the break the encryption.

      It is often easier/faster to break a user than to break the encryption. How long can you stand being beaten with a rubber hose until you hand over the password? How long can you watch your significant other being beaten? How long could you stand your domain being hosted on an IIS server?

      For me, well they can beat my wife a long time before I will
  • My understanding is the most recent rulemaking by the FCC states that colleges and universities would only need to provide the "wiretap" capability for traffic going to and from the campus and the Internet. As such, a wholesale replacement of all routers and switches on campus would not be necessary; most likely some edge equipment and possibly some VLAN switching.

    Of course, the cost complaint ignores the ongoing privacy versus security debate.

    In any event, there is an excellent resource for higher educat

  • by Kainaw ( 676073 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:15PM (#15240020) Homepage Journal
    If you RTFA, the FCC ruling was expanded to ISP's. Universities are concerned that they may legally fit in the legal definition of an ISP. If so, then they would have to obey the same laws as, say AOL and MSN. If that happens and the FBI is investigating, say, someone on campus who with a child porn website, the University would be required to give the FBI access to the network to monitor traffic if a subpoena is granted for a tap. So, all in all, the Universities want to provide broadband internet service for all students, but not be classified as providers of internet service.
    • Maybe because students aren't the same as offering services to the general public.
      I wonder if the same situation applies to any large companies with large private networks connected to major internet backbones. Are there any that (almost) do without a seperate ISP?
    • Universities are concerned that they may legally fit in the legal definition of an ISP. If so, then they would have to obey the same laws as, say AOL and MSN.

      Sooner or later, it will happen to them too because the TIA principle will be established. The novelty here is that this shit was not pushed through public universities first. Freedoms are usually taken from children first to condition them before they know better.

      It's too bad the university administrations are not putting their weight behind CELA b

    • I went looking into it recently for clarifications based on planned upgrades to our phone system, which is for a county government. The wording of the ruling (actually First Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rule Making, Document FCC 05-153) regarding universities is located in footnote 100 on page 19:

      To the extent that EDUCAUSE members (or similar organizations) are engaged in the provision of facilities-based private broadband networks or intranets that enable members to communicate with one anoth

      • The way I read it is that whoever is providing the University's connection to the rest of the internet has to support CALEA, but the University does not have to on its internal network. So the gateway to the 'net has to be tappable, but a connection that stays on the internal network and never strays out onto the Internet itself doesn't have to be.

        That was my reading, although I suppose there could be other interpretations.

        Where I went to school last, Internet service was provided to the campus by commercia
        • That's my reading as well. The telco has its cabinets here for the SONET connections, which is a pretty clear delineation of where their edge of the network sits. I read it as placing our infrastructure squarely into the realm of the private network, but the ambiguity is really thick here.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We're not a big college - we have ~ 5,000 students. We can barely afford to keep our network upgraded and pay our bandwidth bills as it is. Because we are state funded our "income" is very dependent on the state budget which varies significantly (and has been mostly crap for the past 6 years). To do any capital expenditures (which upgrading our network would be) we have to negotiate for a cut of a finite pot of money shared by all state funded colleges and universities in our state, including the flagship u
    • Perhaps you can learn from UK school governors the...

      When I was a school governor, and we were required by law to do something undesirable, we just sheduled the discussion to be the last item in the meeting. Then the meeting would close with that item being postponed for a future meeting, due to lack of time. This was perfectly legal, and could continue for ever.

      Alternatively, vote for it to be implemented "just as soon as we have a budget allocation for it" - ie never. Political problems require political

  • RFC66666 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FireIron ( 838223 )
    Internet/Echelon Compatibility Protocol

    Is your network Echelon-ready?
  • They will just pass it along to the students.
  • It shouldn't cost colleges anything to give the government complete access to their systems. Repeated announcements in the news show that they've already configured their networks to allow arbitrary access to sensitive personal information!

    Or are they worried about the cost of limiting that access to just the government?

  • This is bad. (Score:2, Insightful)

    We've become the government we kicked out two centuries ago, except they didn't pretend to be otherwise.
  • by ONU CS Geek ( 323473 ) * <> on Monday May 01, 2006 @04:29PM (#15240129) Homepage
    Law Enforcement and higher education seem to have been clashing odds for a while. I used to be a PBX guy at a college, and I know that there was at least two occasions while I was there that we had a member of the local PD come in and ask for subscriber information. Unless they had a subponea, we pretty much showed them the door. The only real reason that anyone really looked at the information was for billing purposes, or if we were doing testing on the line (DCONX, anyone?).

    PBX means just that: Private Branch Exchange. PBX != "Telephone Company"

    • Unless they had a subponea, we pretty much showed them the door.

      I bet that was pre Patriot Act. Today you would be threatened with imprisonment. This is not a good time in history to mess with law enforcement (subpoena or not), especially at the federal level. They effectively can and will do what they want.

    • I think you're representative of the exception more than the rule. I think most people at ISPs, commercial PBXes, and large networks/LANs who have the power to permit snooping are most interested in these things:

      1) Preserving their own physical security and safety
      2) Preserving their own economic security and job ...
      3) Preserving other people's "freedoms"

      There is a huge gap between 2 and 3. If you can even vaguely threaten their jobs, I have a feeling that most people will probably fall over themselves tryin
  • Like Spain, for example, where public higher education institutions are the voice of their master.
  • How exactly does wiretapping threaten freedom of speech? If you have freedom of speech, it doesn't matter if someone else (the gov't) hears what you're saying because they can't do anything about it. That's the point of freedom of speech, after all...

    I wish people would stop confusing (or associating) freedom of speech and privacy.
    • by utlemming ( 654269 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @05:01PM (#15240402) Homepage
      Freedom of Speech means that you can speak with out reprisal. If you are affraid of what you are saying then that is an imposition of the freedom of speech. However, Freedom of Speech/Expression/Association is often used as a knee-jerk reaction when it doesn't apply.

      However, Freedom of Speech is not the real issue, as you so well pointed out. We are devling into the 4th Amendment protections of 'Unlawful Search and Siezure,' and the implied freedoms of Privacy that has been recognized by the US Supreme Court. That is the real issue. Stating that the issue is Freedom of Speech is blurring the issues. You could also argue that this issue is related to the Due Process protections -- the assumption that everyone is a potential terrorist/criminal and as such their communications should be available.

      More interesting is that the report that was released on Saturday or Sunday stated that their have been 3,501 abuses of the Patriot Act -- and that was what was admitted.
      • "If you are affraid of what you are saying then that is an imposition of the freedom of speech."

        Bzzzt! Incorrect, sir. If you are afraid of what you are saying, then that is personal paranoia, nothing more.

        "implied freedoms of Privacy"

        There's a problem with implied. You get to read into the implication and others get to read into it. You and them may have diametrically opposing inferences.
    • If the government can't do anything about what we say, what's the point of wiretapping?
  • Since network communications can be encrypted and tunneled, simple interception is (generally) pointless. Honestly, I don't know the session keys chosen; I can't help decrypt a lot of the data. Especially an IM session.

    So, to implement wiretapping usefully, modifications typically have to be made to each of the endpoint machines (key loggers, etc.). Either additional software, or hardware. Once the endpoint machine modification is in place, what is to prevent it from being used by another agency (not author
  • Is there a website that rates countries by civil rights? It would be interesting to know what country was number 1, and where the US, UK, France, Germany, etc came.
    • best to worst:
      New Zealand...France...Zimbabwe...PRC...Germany...USA . ..UK
      Germany may seem out of place, but I was talking with a German about civil liberties/free speech/ID cards the other day and he felt they were a marvellous idea because the government was the most trustworthy organisation in the country. He isn't a stupid person, anywhere where non-stupid people think that the government is the most trustworthy organisation about and will trust them with anything is just ripe for a government to do a
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Monday May 01, 2006 @05:35PM (#15240685) Homepage Journal
    politics hat off)
    (infosec hat on)

    There was a recent scandal in Greece about massive eavesdropping. Many government phone calls were getting involuntarily "conferenced" to multiple prepaid cellular phones. Nobody's caught the perpetrators.

    This was done with the "lawful intercept" feature of the telco switching equipment. Depending on the nature of the phone calls it might have been a national security issue.

    "Lawful intercept" is a huge security bypass. Bad guys will be highly motivated to exploit it. They won't have to breach physical security either, because CALEA (if memory serves) requires the ISP to offer law enforcemnt remote access.

    The threat model also has to include unauthorized users at the law enforcement agency ("Hey, what's this sticky note on the monitor at the CALEA terminal?"). Next worry about the law enforcemnt officer with a personal agenda, e.g. a stalker. Then consider the amount of money in computer crime these days, and ask whether the CALEA operators will be the first incorrutible cops in history. Then reread _The Art of Deception_ and imagine what the next Kevin Mitnick could get the police to do.

    That's off the top of my head. For a client I'd get really paranoid :-)
  • The law itself is stupid and should be abolished as a whole. However, as long as it's in effect, everybody might as well suffer equally, and if colleges and universities suffer under it, then there is a better chance that it will get repealed sooner rather than later.
  • "[Department of Justice] notes that it is willing to work with representatives of certain classes of service providers, such as schools, libraries and research networks, on solutions that would apply to narrowly tailored and well-defined categories of providers and would clearly identify sufficient alternative means of addressing the needs of law enforcement,"

    1. Introduce sweeping, over-generalized assault on freedom from potential massive abuse of law enforcement power (but won't someone think of the child

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky