A forthcoming survey of computer crime investigators suggests that electronic surveillance is a bit more commonplace than most people might expect.Even a relatively small group of 100 police working on online investigations reports submitting as many as 22,800 legal requests for information a year to Internet and e-mail providers, a category that includes both subpoenas and search warrants.
"Most Internet users do not realize how often the government is demanding personal information from companies, often without judicial oversight, and how often companies turn it over," says Nicole Ozer, technology director for the ACLU of Northern California. "Companies are refusing to disclose to the public how many demands they get. It appears that the government is demanding that Internet companies turn over so much personal information about users, so often, that companies can't keep up."No law requires that the number of subpoenas and search warrants sent to Internet and e-mail providers be made public. Federal law does require the disclosure of certain types of wiretaps--in 2004, for instance, there were 1,442 nonterrorism-related wiretaps, and only 4 percent targeted computers and electronic devices.
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