The US Government's proposal for a network monitoring system has caused alarm among privacy advocates, who fear the move will lead to a Big Brother type of state.
The Clinton Administration plans to create a new organisation, the Federal Intrusion Detection Network (Fidnet), to monitor networks for potential attacks by hackers. It will be overseen by the FBI, and is intended to notify the government of computer attacks that could damage its operations or the US economy.
But Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), said: "The most serious concern about this is that it could move us closer to a surveillance society. It's critical that if they do this, they should not retain any of the information that is gathered."
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) obtained a copy of the Fidnet draft document, which was prepared by officials at the National Security Council last month, and has made it available on its Web site at www.cdt.org/policy/terrorism/fidnet).
Ari Schwartz, the CDT's policy analyst, said that the draft monitoring plan discussed linking Fidnet to key private sector systems in telecommunications, finance and other areas.
He continued that all data would be provided to the FBI, but added: "We hope it will truly be a thorough investigation and that they will involve privacy groups."
The document says that information gathered about network security breaches would fall within one of three "pillars" - the Department of Defense's computer network, other federal networks, and private sector networks.
It continued that "trained, experienced analysts will have to step in to determine the nature of any suspected security breaches".
John Tritak, director of the government's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, said Fidnet had not yet been approved by President Clinton and was still undergoing legal review by the Justice Department and Peter Swire, the White House's chief counselor for privacy.
"This legal review is still under way. It's very likely, or should I say possible, that the implementation of any of the features in that programme will be shaped and determined by those reviews," he added.
But US Senator Robert Bennett, who is also chairman of the US Senate's Special Committee on the Year 2000 problem, said Congress had yet to receive the Fidnet plan.
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