While controversial bills on their way through Congress in the United States have been quashed by citizen uprisings, lobbying by the United States and United Kingdom in Europe resulted in the European Data Retention Directive. Adopted in 2006, this directive orders very invasive monitoring of user activity on the Internet and the free handing over of that data to law enforcement by private companies. In Austria, the directive only went into effect this month. Activists were ready and implementing the law is not likely to go as smoothly as those who put it into effect would have liked.
The Austrian government is facing the largest complaint ever filed in the nation over the law. The mass complaint has already amassed almost 7000 supporters, according to reporting by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The reporting goes on to state that 18,000 people have also declared that they want to join the complaint.
The European Data Retention Directive has been controversial in other nations, as well. Ireland has sent the matter to the highest court in the European Union. German, Czech and Romanian courts have already struck down laws that were based on the directive on the grounds that they were unconstitutional.
The Directive does allow for very broad-based monitoring of Internet usage. Under the Directive, Internet usage by everyday citizens is treated the same as Internet usage by criminals, in that logs may be handed over to law enforcement without any real oversight. Throughout the world, there is an increasingly vigorous effort on the part of the entertainment industry, national defense advocates and other interests to put into place laws that make it easier for ISPs and government to collude in the monitoring of citizen Internet usage habits and to share that information with few restrictions and almost no oversight.
Austrian users can avoid being monitored and, in fact, doing so is very simple. VPN networks can provide encryption for all of the traffic that a user generates over the Internet. For users on USENET services, connecting with SSL is the best way to make certain that traffic is not monitored. The combination of a VPN service and SSL has the effect of making Internet traffic incoherent to anybody trying to monitor it. Several USENET services offer SSL encryption when hooking up to their servers and some of them are also packaged with VPN services.
To stay up on the latest news surrounding the Usenet communities, send us a tweet and follow us on twitter: @usenetreviewz.