Computer surveillance

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Computer surveillance is the act of performing surveillance of computer activity, and of data stored on a hard drive or being transferred over the Internet.

Computer surveillance programs are widespread today, and almost all internet traffic is closely monitored for clues of illegal activity.

Supporters[who?] say that watching all internet traffic is important, because by knowing everything that everyone is reading and writing, they can identify terrorists and criminals, and protect society from them.

Critics[who?] cite concerns over privacy and the possibility of a totalitarian state where political dissent is impossible and opponents of state policy are removed in COINTELPRO-like purges. Such a state may be referred to as an Electronic Police State, in which the government aggressively uses electronic technologies to record, organize, search and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens.


Network Surveillance

The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet.[1] In the United States for example, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, all phone calls and broadband internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc.) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by Federal law enforcement agencies.[2][3][4]

Packet sniffing is the monitoring of data traffic on a computer network. Computers communicate over the Internet by breaking up messages (emails, images, videos, web pages, files, etc.) into small chunks called "packets", which are routed through a network of computers, until they reach their destination, where they are assembled back into a complete "message" again. Packet sniffers are programs that intercept these packets as they are travelling through the network, in order to examine their contents using other programs. A packet sniffer is an information gathering tool, but not an analysis tool. That is it gathers "messages" but it does not analyze them and figure out what they mean. Other programs are needed to perform traffic analysis and sift through intercepted data looking for important/useful information. Under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act all U.S. telecommunications providers are required to install packet sniffing technology to allow Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to intercept all of their customers' broadband internet traffic.

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