Fear of a Million Big Brothers

Monday, 7 April 2003, 10:15 AM EST

The privacy advocates and civil libertarians at the 13th annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference sometimes seem dwarfed by the enormity of the projects they oppose -- larger-than-life enterprises worthy of a James Bond villain. John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness project, if successful, would combine every government and private sector database into a massive data mining system capable of picking out aberrant behavior in the actions of seemingly-ordinary citizens. The Department of Homeland Security's CAPPS II program aims to run automatic background checks on every airline passenger in the U.S.

But the day before CFP 2003 began, a smaller invitation-only group of technologists and policy wonks met at the conference site to discuss a matter that some say is just as important to Internet privacy as any of the monolithic omniscient supercomputers being hatched in Washington... The humble Web server log.

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