January 04, 2001, 3:11 PM — THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT released the final version of an independent study of Carnivore on Thursday. A spokeswoman said the agency will release recommendations on the use of the controversial electronic surveillance system to Congress in a week or two.
The recommendations are based upon the findings reported by the IIT Research Institute in Chicago.
Carnivore is the e-mail sniffing software, similar to a wiretap, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation uses to monitor alleged criminals. The software can also track users surfing on the Web. Privacy advocates have railed against the government since use of the surveillance software was discovered this spring, when ISP EarthLink balked at having the software installed on its network, saying the monitoring slowed down performance and raised concerns over the privacy of its customers.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington requested all FBI documents pertaining to Carnivore through a Freedom of Information Act request, and the Justice Department commissioned a review of the software. EPIC officials could not be reached for comment at deadline.
Officials at the FBI and the Department of Justice have said the surveillance system can only be legally deployed to monitor allegedly criminal activity under a court order, similar to the regulations that govern the use of telephone wiretaps.
Critics, however, have pointed out that the software can be configured to capture all traffic on the network, not only the e-mail to and from the person on the warrant, and that there is effectively no audit trail.