back to article FBI drops subpoena to identify readers of USA Today article about shootout with agents

The FBI on Saturday withdrew a subpoena issued to USA Today's parent company Gannett in April to find out who read an online news story published in February about a shootout that led to the deaths of two FBI agents and the wounding of three others. The subpoena, challenged by Gannett [PDF], sought the IP addresses, user agent …

  1. corestore

    I've been banging the same drum...

    ...for 20 years at least.

    If *any* organisation gives a damn about privacy, the simplest step they can take is to *not store the information in the first place*!

    Why would a newspaper log the IP address of everyone who reads a story in the first place?! I mean you can wave arms about cookies and targeted ads and goodness knows what else, but why keep that log file? That's data you simply shouldn't have.

    1. sev.monster Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: I've been banging the same drum...

      For performance tracking, analytics, security, auditing, compliance, and advertising purposes.

      Examples:

      • Performance tracking: Some page request keeps hanging, so you look at the logs to see when that started happening so you can start to pin down potential causes.
      • Analytics: How many unique users visited this site? What kinds and how many device types were used? Many platforms allow logs to be ingressed, either when requested (logs must be present) or into a database (logs can be deleted). There's also good 'ol grep.
      • Security: Some cockroach keeps spamming your form. Checking the logs shows they are using different IPs, but the user agent seems to be the same.
      • Auditing: Confirm with your ISP how much actual page requests/traffic you get to negotiate a different price. This has happened to me at a job before.
      • Compliance: Some laws or regulations may require keeping logs depending on what you're hosting. Being able to sell out your users to the man also helps quickly free you from liability.
      • Advertising: You know this one.

      I'm sure there are more valid reasons.

      NB: As an end user, fuck tracking and logging.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I've been banging the same drum...

        Even to the extent that these might be good reasons it shouldn't be kept a second longer than needed. What's that? IPA?

        1. sev.monster Bronze badge

          Re: I've been banging the same drum...

          I don't disagree with you, just playing Devil's advocate. I find logs very useful when I need them, but the problem is you often don't know they're needed until it's too late, which makes it safer just to keep them on hand. Unfortunately all the valid reasons to keep and process logs lend themselves well to the nefarious ne'er-do-wells that infest the world.

  2. sev.monster Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    And people wonder why I block stuff in my browsers on all devices; spoof my phone's IMEI, Android device ID, phone number, and other information for all apps; use a paid VPN most of the time; and don't use Windows for anything but gaming.

    "I have nothing to hide," you say jubilantly, but you wouldn't like it if some rando walked up behind you and started writing down everything you were doing on a notepad, would you? You wouldn't like it if they took that notepad and sold it to the highest bidder, would you? Be honest.

    There is always someone watching, and while being paranoid is not conducive, there are relatively easy, straightforward steps you can take to minimize your digital footprint—just enough to not make you stand out.

    1. Unbelievable!

      it's annoying that it's one way...

      "They" - the rulemakers in Gov and their mates and enforcers etc won't give their phone number if we requested it, let alone private browsing history!

      First we were people, then we were numbers, then we were barcodes.

      Now, we're not even an ip address.

      Until it comes to parking fines or saying something that might offend a 5 legged barracuda with a proclivity for pronouns, then suddenly we are people again, before being treated worse than animals.

      FSociety.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One in the Eye

    A couple of years ago someone sent a cartoon from Private Eye through the police internal mail as a form of racial abuse. The blue-on-blue investigation went a bit farcical when the police, hoping to find the culprit, requested Private Eye hand over their entire list of subscribers. Private Eye naturally invoked 'Arkel v Pressdram'(*), pointing out they never handed over their subscribers details to just anyone. After a few further attempts at narrowing the scope, the case finally went in front of a judge... who promptly threw the case out, pointing out not only could the subscribers share copies, but copies could be purchased without a subscription in any good news agents (and WH Smiths)

    (*) https://lettersofnote.com/2013/08/07/arkell-v-pressdram/

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: One in the Eye

      Getting the subscriber list wasn't the point.

      It's the chilling effect of knowing that if you subscribe to Private-eye or visit the Private-eye website your name goes on the list for the next investigation.

      Better stick to only reading the Daily Mail online like a good patriot

  4. DXMage

    HA they dropped it cause they got the report from the NSA. Despite the fact the NSA has been told not to spy on everyone they still do.

  5. jason_derp Bronze badge

    "...two agents were shot and killed and three other agents were wounded while serving a warrant in a child exploitation investigation."

    And we're supposed to allow backdoors to encryption methods so that you can stop child pornography and sex trafficking operations? What would be the point? You're just going to kill off the agents our taxpayer money pumped into training when you go to stop them!

  6. A random security guy Bronze badge

    Curious about a few things

    1. FBI knows a person of interest was reading that particular article on that site in a particular window of time. How did they know that? They intercepted some communication?

    2. FBI thinks that all readers of such articles are persons of interest.

    3. The FBI found the information they needed using another method. Did they hack in? Or did the owner just give them the information?

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