from the collect-it-all dept

Mike Masnick
Tech Dirt
January 28, 2014

We’ve mentioned in the past that, for all the focus on the NSA lately, the FBI may be equally, if not more, worrisome for its willingness to collect tons of data on everyone and use it. Back in August, it became pretty clear that the FBI had compromised the Tor Browser Bundle, and had effectively taken over Freedom Hosting — a popular hosting provider for dark web tor sites — in order to push out malware that identified Tor users. A month later, it was confirmed that it was the FBI behind the effort, which led to the closing of Freedom Hosting.

Now there are new reports, suggesting that along with Freedom Hosting, the FBI was able to get the full database of emails on TorMail, a popular tor-based email service that used Freedom Hosting and was shut down at the same time Freedom Hosting went down. The reports point to a new lawsuit, in which the FBI was able to get a search warrant to search TorMail using its own copy of the database — which it clearly had obtained at an earlier date. This basically means that the FBI has a pretty easy time searching all those emails if it needs to:

The tactic suggests the FBI is adapting to the age of big-data with an NSA-style collect-everything approach, gathering information into a virtual lock box, and leaving it there until it can obtain specific authority to tap it later. There’s no indication that the FBI searched the trove for incriminating evidence before getting a warrant. But now that it has a copy of TorMail’s servers, the bureau can execute endless search warrants on a mail service that once boasted of being immune to spying.

This again highlights one of the problems of the “collect it all” approach. Rather than merely targeting a specific individual or group, the FBI now has all of those emails sitting in a database. Even if it’s getting a warrant to search, it’s now searching its own database, rather than having to go out to get the information from others who might challenge the requests.

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