Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Alternatives to Wiretaps

Electronic eavesdropping methods allow law enforcement officers to legally compromise privacy. Privacy activists argue that law enforcement already has many technologies available to them that can be used as alternatives to wiretaps. Alternatives not defeated by the use of encryption, include:
  • Improved call-tracing methods
  • Surveillance with infrared scanners
  • Aerial surveillance
  • Bugging
  • Filtering that picks certain voices or keywords out of the babble of telecommunications traffic, formerly precluded by the sheer volume of calls
  • Supersensitive satellite photography that lets the police peer into windows or identify a license plate from 20 miles up in the sky
  • Vast electronic databases [many combined]
  • Plaintext readers such as Tempest, which read text appearing on computer screens through closed doors and walls as we type
  • Laser light beams that allow conversations to be deduced from vibrations of the windowpane
  • Credit card transactions, e-mail, Internet transactions, and click-stream data are all easy to intercept or subject to other electronic surveillance methods.

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