Thursday, March 20, 2008

Careful Where You Click

Via TalkLeft, here's a disturbing story about your Government's latest online crime fighting scheme. Like any good online business, the Government is craving link hits:

The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.

Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images.

A CNET review of legal documents shows that courts have approved of this technique, even though it raises questions about entrapment, the problems of identifying who's using an open wireless connection--and whether anyone who clicks on a FBI link that contains no child pornography should be automatically subject to a dawn raid by federal police.
There are some legal challenges underway in these prosecutions, but it's hard to generate a lot of sympathy for folks in that situation, at least as set forth in the CNET story. After all, if the link promises kiddie porn and you click on it, that's a pretty good sign of intent and kills any entrapment defense. The real problem is that if someone with a clever mind gets a hold of the FBI's links and disguises them in some way, folks could be innocently duped into clicking on them. The situation is ripe for abuse and/or mischief.

Oh, and to all those folks with unsecured wireless networks bleeding out into the outside world - take note that if someone free rides on your network and clicks on one of the FBI's links, the knock is going to come at your door, not theirs.

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