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D. Sicker, P. Ohm, and D. Grunwald, "Legal issues surrounding monitoring during network research", in ACM SIGCOMM IMC, 2007.
Legal issues surrounding monitoring during network research
Authors: D. Sicker
P. Ohm
D. Grunwald
Published: ACM SIGCOMM IMC, 2007
URL:http://www.imconf.net/imc-2007/papers/imc152.pdf
ENTRY DATE: 2008-06-16
ABSTRACT: This work was motivated by a discussion that two of the coauthors (computer science professors) had with the other coauthor (a law professor and a former computer crime Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice), in which it was pointed out that some of the network measurements that the computer scientists were thinking of making might potentially violate Federal laws. Several Federal laws prohibit or restrict network monitoring and the sharing of records of network activity. These laws are designed to protect online privacy. They apply both to private parties and government agents, although the details vary depending on who is doing the monitoring. The most important thing to note is that none of these laws contain any specific exceptions or safe harbors for scientific or academic research. The laws are complex, but they follow a basic pattern. First, certain types of network monitoring and data access are prohibited. People who violate the prohibitions may be sued by the people whose privacy they invade and potentially prosecuted and convicted of federal crimes (i.e., misdemeanor and felony convictions). In this paper, we will examine these laws and consider what they might mean for the network measurement community. Although we focus on U.S. Federal Law, we also highlight general trends and approaches in state and international laws that impact network researchers. We will ex- amine the steps commonly taken in prior research in network measurement to respect user privacy, and we will compare those approaches to the evolving legal rules. We will also consider whether legislative reform is needed, describe steps that researchers might take when pursuing such work in light of the legal rules, and propose future technical and policy-related steps the community can take to focus more attention on user privacy.
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