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Super-Privacy-Protecting ISP In the Planning 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the secret-surfing dept.
h00manist writes "Nicholas Merrill ran a New York based ISP and got tired of federal 'information requests.' He is now planning an ISP which would be built from the ground up for privacy. Everything encrypted, maximum technical and legal resistance to information requests. Merrill has formed an advisory board with members including Sascha Meinrath from the New America Foundation; former NSA technical director Brian Snow; and Jacob Appelbaum from the Tor Project. Kickstarter-like IndieGoGo has a project page."
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Super-Privacy-Protecting ISP In the Planning

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  • by Tommy Bologna (2431404) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:07PM (#39650255)
    If he pulls this off, he will be very well off. I suspect it will take the dinosaur telcos eons before they understand how to adjust, and by then it just may be too late.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:14PM (#39650347)

      Probably more like an invitation for an FBI raid.

      • by CodeHxr (2471822) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:22PM (#39650449)
        If they* don't just pass a law declaring that this type of operation is illegal.

        (* they == anyone with the power [directly or otherwise] to enact/enable such a law)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Is America Really Free?

          11.04.2012 11:43

          By Vasily Georgevich

          The recent outcry by the American Media complaining of mass riots over the Russian election has gotten me thinking. Do the youth in Russia protesting understand exactly how free they are compared with the American's slandering them? Consider the facts.

          1. America's Free Press

          Six Corporations control the American press (Walt Disney, General Electric, New Corporation, Viacom, CBS, and Time Warner), whether in print, or on t

          • by demonbug (309515) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:35PM (#39650571) Journal

            I'm trying to figure this post out - did you put it up ironically, like, "Hey, look how completely uninformed this Russian guy is about the U.S., isn't this funny?" Or were you actually serious? The cluelessness meter is off the charts, but I can't tell if it is a joke or not...

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            > Frequently in the last several decades children have had to rely on parents taking schools to court to avail themselves of the right to pray

            Typical Alex Jones bullshit. Go to a private school if you want my tax dollars paying for your superstition. And don't make me fund any fucking vouchers for it either.

            • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:45PM (#39651495) Homepage Journal

              When they say "the right to pray" what the mean is "the right to make others pray, or at least feel marginalized by forcing them to stand out as not part of the group if they choose not to participate."

              Anyone can pray anytime, anywhere. A kid can pray in school. What CAN'T happen is the school can;t LEAD A PRAYER and therefore use authority to enforce that religion.

              That's what they are really saying, but they LIE CONSTANTLY about it, those moral religious folks.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Sorry to be off-topic, but this struck a (good) nerve.

              I'm glad you don't like vouchers. I don't either, as I think it's a way to send public tax money to private, religious, and charter schools.

              Charter schools, by the way, are a calculated mechanism to pay teachers less, break the NEA, and force school districts into bankruptcy by taking district funding without being forced to take any student.

              The representatives of charter schools can go door to door for only the kids they want (read: the top-scoring stu

          • ...And that very long Comment was voted up. Why are things like this not submitted and accepted on Slashdot as news stories or at least discussion topics?

            Being a geek doesn't preclude me from wanting to have a meaningful, well-cited Slashdot-esque political debate. Indeed, Slashdot may be one of the few places it's possible to have that.

          • The United States hasn't used rubber bullets against protesters as Georgian president Sakashvili did multiple times in recent years

            I have to completely disagree with this, as my roommate showed me pictures where he and his girlfriend got hit with rubber bullets while protesting the FTAA in 2003.

            He and his gf were hit on their legs and arms, but one woman was hit on her temple and he said she was completely knocked out and they had to help carry her off into the 'ghetto' where the police were forcing protesters to move into --he was also a camera operator at that protest and was told by locals in that 'sub par' neighborhood that 'non-lo

            • by ckaminski (82854)
              Let's not forget the girl killed when she was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet in Boston in 2004 during the "riot" after the Red Sox won the World Series.
          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            Do the youth in Russia protesting understand exactly how free they are compared with the American's slandering them? Consider the facts.

            Sorry, but the opinion of the uneducated is of no interest whatever to me. Your "journalist" should learn when, and more importantly when NOT, to use simple punctuation and I'll read his tripe. But what an aliterate says is of no value to me. I'm surprised you'd quote such a rag.

            If it was meant as a possessive it should have read "compared with the Americans' slandering of

          • by Gr8Apes (679165)

            This really deserves to be modded down some, but I'll reply:

            1) the press is free. Who owns most of it is a different topic.

            2) If it's who we suspect, he did more than merely state his opinions. His "recording tapes and CDs denouncing America's policies as immoral, and oppressive" was not why the action was authorized, or many more "assassinations" and arrests would be ongoing.

            3) You have the right to pray. You do not have the right to influence or force others to pray. There is a not so subtle differe

    • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:22PM (#39650453) Homepage

      If he pulls this off, expect tougher laws on data collection requirements for ISPs.

      • by elucido (870205)

        If he pulls this off, expect tougher laws on data collection requirements for ISPs.

        Whether he pulls it off or not it wont stop the FBI from spying on someone. It just makes it more expensive.

        The FBI keeps making the mistake of thinking changing the laws is the solution to everything. Technological solutions already solve this problem. These solutions I don't feel like I have to mention but they certainly cost more and they aren't blanket surveillance solutions.

        And that's probably what the FBI wanted. The FBI probably wanted blanket surveillance on the cheap and this makes it too costly.

    • Wouldn't a cron job deleting all server and firewall logs every 30 seconds do the trick? They can't subpoena what doesn't exist.

      • by koan (80826) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:54PM (#39650765)

        ISP's are required by law to maintain logs.

        • Are they actually? I know there were some bills that wanted something like 18 months of your activity stored (PIPA/SOPA maybe?) but pretty sure those died.

          Where is the *legal* requirement that an ISP maintain logs?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by koan (80826)

            http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:s.01738 [loc.gov]:

            NOTE: In the fall of 2008, Congress passed Sen. Biden's PROTECT Our Children Act which has a data retention requirement!

        • The Freedom of Information Act is required to release information on public request. Doesn't mean they can't redact it.

          And "by law" should read "by legislation". Huge difference, the lack of comprehension about which enables them to call any old thing law. "Legislation" and "legal" come from the root word legis, and are bureaucratic terms - not law. They concern the legitimacy of the paperwork process involved: Everything dated correctly? Signed by the right parties? Turned in on time? Great! It's l

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by koan (80826)

          OK I'm wrong, should have just gone to Wikipedia in the first place.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telecommunications_data_retention#United_States [wikipedia.org]

          he United States does not have any Internet Service Provider (ISP) data retention laws similar to the European Data Retention Directive.[19] All attempts have failed:

          In 1999 two models of mandatory data retention were suggested for the US: What IP address was assigned to a customer at a specific time. In the second model, "which is closer to what Europe adopted", telephone numbers dialed, contents of Web pages visited, and recipients of e-mail messages must be retained by the ISP for an unspecified amount of time.[20][21][22]

          The Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth (SAFETY) Act of 2009 also known as H.R. 1076 and S.436 would require providers of "electronic communication or remote computing services" to "retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user."[23] This bill never became a law. [24]

        • by allo (1728082)

          Make logs useless.
          Like "okay, i need to log ips? The Customer gets a private one, which is mapped 1:1 to a public one. No logs of the mapping"
          Like a anonymous-VPN built into the ISP itself. The anonymous VPN is legal, the ISP is legal, why not the combination?

      • every 30 seconds? that's stupid. might as well not even keep logs and save the cpu cycles. you don't do this kind of thing for a living, do you?
    • Even if he builds this ISP it's very unlikely he will be able to build it in such a way that there is no FBI surveillance of the ISP itself or backdoors or moles etc. Basically there is nothing he can do if the FBI is determined to wiretap someone.

      What this does is it makes it too expensive for the FBI to wiretap and monitor millions of people at a time. It does not prevent the FBI from wiretapping any specific person. If the FBI puts anyone under physical surveillance then none of that fancy encryption or

  • by idontgno (624372) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:07PM (#39650261) Journal

    Nicholas Merrill ran a New York based ISP and got tired of federal 'information requests'....maximum technical and legal resistance to information requests.

    He's tired of fighting The Man, so he's going to set up a new ISP which will let him fight The Man even more? That doesn't even begin to approach making sense. Is this like Fight Club or something?

    • by Tommy Bologna (2431404) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:08PM (#39650289)
      Shhh, we don't talk about Fight Club.
    • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:14PM (#39650343) Homepage

      Nicholas Merrill ran a New York based ISP and got tired of federal 'information requests'....maximum technical and legal resistance to information requests.

      He's tired of fighting The Man, so he's going to set up a new ISP which will let him fight The Man even more? That doesn't even begin to approach making sense. Is this like Fight Club or something?

      Its actually quite ingenious... He's going to create an ISP where it is much-more-difficult to compromise a users privacy. They're designing it from the ground up to be PATRIOT-Act proof because it will literally be impossible for them to give the feds the data they want. It is fewer fights, but may amount to one HUGE fight with the biggest gorilla on earth, the U.S. Justice Department.

      Another possibility, however, is if he gets anywhere close to a working model where this is possible that he suddenly has an "accident," or his data-center suffers a "mysterious fire." Or maybe the CIA kills his network engineers the way Israel kills mechanical engineers they think can build high-speed centrifuges in Iran.

      • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:22PM (#39650445) Homepage

        Far closer to the idea that he has 100 customers but needs 10,000 to fund the operations. Can something like this ever get enough customers to operate? Not if they charge a penny more than a non-privacy protecting ISP - it simply isn't a priority for most people. A few, yes, and that is all the customers something like this would ever have.

        Far too few to make a go of it. No reason for anyone to attack it - it will die of lack of interest.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:12PM (#39650997)

        Its actually quite ingenious... He's going to create an ISP where it is much-more-difficult to compromise a users privacy. They're designing it from the ground up to be PATRIOT-Act proof because it will literally be impossible for them to give the feds the data they want. It is fewer fights, but may amount to one HUGE fight with the biggest gorilla on earth, the U.S. Justice Department.

        It is not without precedent. After the PATRIOT Act made it legal to for the feds to confiscate book borrowing records from libraries without even a warrant, most libraries switched over to lending software that deleted all records once a book was returned. So, at worst, the feds could find out what a patron currently had checked out, but no borrowing history was available to anyone.

        As far as I know, the DOJ hasn't tried, at least in court, to make a library use a less privacy-preserving system.

        • Its actually quite ingenious... He's going to create an ISP where it is much-more-difficult to compromise a users privacy. They're designing it from the ground up to be PATRIOT-Act proof because it will literally be impossible for them to give the feds the data they want. It is fewer fights, but may amount to one HUGE fight with the biggest gorilla on earth, the U.S. Justice Department.

          It is not without precedent. After the PATRIOT Act made it legal to for the feds to confiscate book borrowing records from libraries without even a warrant, most libraries switched over to lending software that deleted all records once a book was returned. So, at worst, the feds could find out what a patron currently had checked out, but no borrowing history was available to anyone.

          As far as I know, the DOJ hasn't tried, at least in court, to make a library use a less privacy-preserving system.

          Its actually quite ingenious... He's going to create an ISP where it is much-more-difficult to compromise a users privacy. They're designing it from the ground up to be PATRIOT-Act proof because it will literally be impossible for them to give the feds the data they want. It is fewer fights, but may amount to one HUGE fight with the biggest gorilla on earth, the U.S. Justice Department.

          It is not without precedent. After the PATRIOT Act made it legal to for the feds to confiscate book borrowing records from libraries without even a warrant, most libraries switched over to lending software that deleted all records once a book was returned. So, at worst, the feds could find out what a patron currently had checked out, but no borrowing history was available to anyone.

          As far as I know, the DOJ hasn't tried, at least in court, to make a library use a less privacy-preserving system.

          What everyone fails to consider is the feds can just take the data they want whether you legally give it to them or not. The feds have all the technological and physical means to take any information from any ISP or entity.

          They can do it the legal way and have guys in suits and ties walk in with the Patriot Act or National Security letter or whatever and politely ask for it, or they can send some blackhats in to steal or hack the information. This ISP is simply going to make the feds rely more on extrajudic

      • Re:TFS is confusing. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:13PM (#39651005)

        They're designing it from the ground up to be PATRIOT-Act proof because it will literally be impossible for them to give the feds the data they want. It is fewer fights, but may amount to one HUGE fight with the biggest gorilla on earth, the U.S. Justice Department.

        Who he already fought. This guy is the same guy who fought (successfully), the national security letter he recieved in 2007.

      • Of course, it would be far more elegant if the three letter agencies are behind this company in the first place. No need for any accidents, and you get users' trust.

        I'm not suggesting that's the case, just a "what if"...
    • by Surt (22457)

      He's tired of being unable to beat the man, so he's going to construct his own company in which it will be impossible for him to lose.

    • He's tired of fighting The Man, so he's going to set up a new ISP which will let him fight The Man even more? That doesn't even begin to approach making sense.

      Complying with these sorts of requests is costly, particularly for a little guy.
      So by not collecting the data in the first place they save themselves a lot of work.
      It is far easier to say flat out, "sorry we don't have that information" than it is to go dig through months or even years of logs.

      If more companies would see it as a way to save money, we might actually start to get corporate interests aligned with personal privacy again.

      • It is far easier to say flat out, "sorry we don't have that information" than it is to go dig through months or even years of logs.

        If more companies would see it as a way to save money, we might actually start to get corporate interests aligned with personal privacy again.

        Actually, most companies have a pricing policy for retrieving such information. What, you think that retrieving information is free??

  • NSA Director? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stevegee58 (1179505) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:08PM (#39650283) Journal
    Former or not, still sounds like a 5th column in the making.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Former or not, still sounds like a 5th column in the making.

      Yeah, I have a hard time believing the former director of the NSA is going to be willing to help create an ISP which would allow you to not be spied on by the NSA.

      And, as people have pointed out, there's simply no way you could build this to circumvent the Patriot Act and other things without being illegal under those very things.

      Governments want more access, not less.

      • i believe it said technical director, not the director. he was they guy in charge of trying to explain computers and what is and is not possible with said computers to the director.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          i believe it said technical director, not the director. he was they guy in charge of trying to explain computers and what is and is not possible with said computers to the director.

          Well, he may need someone to explain to him how laws work, and what is and is not possible with said laws.

          I don't see them having any legal leg to stand on if they build this in such a way as to say "Oh, sorry, we can't comply with your Patriot Act request".

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:12PM (#39650315) Homepage

    Will people pay for supposed "privacy"? Sure, a few would but absolutely not everyone. Or even a majority of people.

    The fact that the local police or FBI can subpoena records held by your ISP to find out what you have been doing online and that Google will disclose that you have been researching poisons if your spouse suddenly dies of some rare and obscure poison is irrelevent to most people. Most people more or less figure that if you have been researching poisons and your spouse dies from one that you probably did it and deserve what is coming.

    The fact that it is possible - maybe a 0.001% chance - that an innocent person might be caught up in something like this is remote enough to most people to completely discount it happening. Not. Important. For. Them.

    If you are downloading movies, music, software, ebooks and whatever else you can grab off BitTorrent today and after a huge legal effort you get caught, well, most people's attitude is (a) I wish I knew how to do that... and (b) sucks to be you. Again, the offender is 99% of the time the person getting nailed and while there is a possiblity of the wrong person getting stuck with the bill we have seen through history that it is rare enough that most people discount it ever possibly happening to them. So it isn't important.

    So this can be planned and might attract a few geeky investors. But it is extremely unlikely to survive even one year and probably won't ever be launched. The reality is that almost nobody cares will sink in and doom the project.

    Nice idea. Too bad nobody cares. I do not see it affecting mainstream cable companies in the slightest little bit.

    • by demonbug (309515)

      The fact that the local police or FBI can subpoena records held by your ISP to find out what you have been doing online and that Google will disclose that you have been researching poisons if your spouse suddenly dies of some rare and obscure poison is irrelevent to most people. Most people more or less figure that if you have been researching poisons and your spouse dies from one that you probably did it and deserve what is coming.

      That, or most people will realize the fact that it is circumstantial evidence and it won't get you convicted unless there is abundant additional evidence that ties you to the crime (or you base your defense on ignorance of poisons and your search history proves you are lying).

      But I agree with the larger point, that people mostly don't care if the authorities can get access to their search histories and that it is unlikely this company would find more than a niche market.

    • I would pay double for my ISP if I got everything encrypted, no server logs, and a great big "fuck you, you warrantless fuck" attitude.

      And I live in Canada, where our ISP rates are, "you got a purty wallet..."*
      .

      .

      .

      .
      *Does not include $5.95 government assraping fee which is not a government fee.**

      **This is an actual disclaimer on Roger's agreements.

    • It's something to be preserved for it's own sake. It a way, it enables freedom and preserves the sanctity of the individual.

      "Most people more or less figure that if you have been researching poisons and your spouse dies from one that you probably did it and deserve what is coming"

      What you're saying that it's ok to have no privacy because someone who is researching *blank* and *blank* happened. probably did *blank* ... it isn't even an argument.

    • by jdogalt (961241)

      "The fact that it is possible - maybe a 0.001% chance - that an innocent person might be caught up in something like this is remote enough to most people to completely discount it happening. Not. Important. For. Them."

      This is the thing. It'll happen. It took royalty getting caught up in the Murdoch phone hacking thing, but now that cat is starting to come out of the bag. I think it's safe to say that the U.K. has a more evolved, through experience, and more enlightened view of the dangers of digital netw

    • Will people pay for supposed "privacy"? Sure, a few would but absolutely not everyone.

      Some businesses may be willing to pay for this kind of privacy.

      After all, if the system is better at protecting the privacy of a customer from the US government, it may also be better at protecting such information from hackers, disgruntled employees, and/or corporate espionage.

      Now, I'm not saying this kind of service will have many customers, but I could certainly envision a number of businesses be willing to pay a very high premium for this kind of added security layer (assuming this new ISP does a good j

    • This sort of ISP is useless if only thousands of well known geeks use it. Basically the sort of people likely to use it are the sort of people the NSA and FBI already have under surveillance.

    • No, of course, not the majority of people will be interested in this. But I know many non-techy people interested in keeping their data as secure and un-snooped as possible. What mechanisms do they have? Well, to prefer encrypted channels, to avoid storing any meaningful data on well-known big-brand providers as Google, Yahoo and the such. My friends are somewhat naÃve, I know â" But, using Tor for accessing some sensitive information (even with its limitations), handling their mail at a more "tru

  • Seriously, while I love the idea, and really do wish them well, they are effectively just stinging a squad of ogres armed with flamethrowers.

    The RSA, CIA, FBI, and DHS all have strongly vested interests in destroying private correspondence for anyone but themselves.

    The MPAA, RIAA, and associated gaggle of goons act like they used a hornet's nest suppository at the mere mention that they are anything but "helpless victims" of intellectual property theft, and that the bad, bad, ISPs just wont beweeve dem! (Wh

  • and it will wind up in the basement of the new NSA data center in Utah.

  • hello idiots (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:19PM (#39650411)

    Stop being so USA centric- there is a whole world to put your server- and not just in a dictatorship like america.

    It will not work unfortunately for these reasons:

    1. he is an american, everywhere you go now the US can get you
    2. it is located in America
    3. The us government owns the root name servers, hence the internet.

  • This sounds like the makings of a target-rich nailing list for the Feds. Sure, let them build it. We want to see who comes! Now we can concentrate our not inconsiderable assets on cracking this who's who list of the criminal underworld. Why, it's almost as if they had something to hide...
    • by isaac (2852)

      The only way this makes sense is as a honeypot, intentional or not.

      First, government surveillance of the internet is a solved problem - it's already comprehensive and embedded in the infrastructure of every major carrier and exchange. What good is a theoretically surveillance-free ISP if you can only talk to other customers of the same ISP? The ISP would not be surveillance-free much longer if it ever build any kind of user base.

      Second, essentially everyone on the internet leaves - even if they take pains t

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      my bet is that they would just end up with a bunch of cat pictures from regular people sick of government snooping.
  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:29PM (#39650517)
    I have Comcast for high speed internet, or nothing! I don't care if you encrypt my information or send it to the cloud in China, having some competition is better than living in a monopolistic world where the monopolies even corrupt the government [huffingtonpost.com]
  • If it ever makes it to where I live, I will definitely be a customer.
  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:31PM (#39650531)
    The service will probably be ridiculously expensive to cover staff and equipment costs, not to mention the federal, state, and local governments are going to give him a rough time at any chance possible.....but I wish him luck regardless. I just hope this doesn't result in more draconian measures taken by Congress if it does happen to be a success.
  • by erice (13380) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:35PM (#39650569) Homepage

    So are they going to keep enough logging to track down spammers and other abusers on their network?

  • Fishy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:41PM (#39650619)

    former NSA technical director Brian Snow

    It's a trap!

  • He will be obligated to comply with all the frivolous data requests, or he goes to prison.

    Presumably even now, if a judge demands it, his choices are either comply or get jailed. The court takes a dim view on refusal of warrants.

  • ISP that uses NAT? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crow (16139) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:46PM (#39651507) Homepage Journal

    If the ISP uses NAT instead of real IP addresses for each customer, that would cover the vast majority of issues that currently impact customers. If IP addresses are shared, they can't trace back an IP address to a single account holder.

    Short of that, you could set up a localized TOR network that only consists of local users on the same broadband connection, so that it has nearly the speed of a native connection while providing a good deal of privacy. If you had a broadband provider that included that by default in a provided router, that would be great.

    • by allo (1728082)

      you won't need nat or stuff like tor.
      just assign the customer one ip(i.e. from a private range), map it 1:1 to another ip(needs to be public) and it won't even break p2p (open ports, etc.), but if you do not log how you mapped the ips, any ip log of only private/only public ips is worthless.

      • by crow (16139)

        Yes, but that brings us right back to where we are today: your privacy is based on the ISP not logging something, and laws will probably be interpreted to require logging of exactly that.

        • by allo (1728082)

          its always based on this. but TFA says, this ISP defines itself by avoiding to log the crucial stuff needed to associate an ip adress with a name. How they can do it, depends on the loopholes in surveilance laws.

  • It is a very simple explanation:

    Peering

    If he intends to seriously run everything encrypted no Tier 1 provider will peer with him, its that simple.

    Even if they wanted to peer with him you can be damn sure the NSA,FBI,CIA and every other 3 letter acronym intelligence agency will have a quiet meeting with some CEO's and that will be the end of it because whether you like it or not there are some people and groups we need to keep tabs on and you really want your government to catch before they do something really nasty and NO this is not about torrents or PB or any other crap like that the CIA and the NSA could care less about.

    • by cpghost (719344)

      ... and NO this is not about torrents or PB or any other crap like that the CIA and the NSA could care less about.

      This (naively) assumes the Government is working for the benefit of the People, and not for the Corporations. But is this assumption (still?) true in this day and age? And if it was, how long will it remain true in the foreseeable future?

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