September 21, 2005 | By Annalee Newitz

The NSA and Hollywood Are Watching You

It's no surprise that the National Security Agency (NSA) is working on technologies that can locate you in geographical space by analyzing your Internet communications. What is somewhat odd is that the government agency is patenting them. Just a few days ago, the NSA was granted a patent on a "method for locating logical network addresses," which measures time latency in communications as a way of figuring out where network traffic originates. High tech investigators now need more than a court order to snoop on Internet communications -- they also need a patent license.

Movie studios may not know much about the Internet, but they definitely understand licensing. That's why six major studios launched a techie think tank called MovieLabs to cook up new ways of preventing people from copying their media. Among other projects, MovieLabs announced it will be working on "ways to link senders and receivers of movies transmitted over the Internet to geographic and political territories." Maybe MovieLabs will consider licensing some technology from the NSA for that!

When the entertainment industry and federal government spies are working on the same kinds of projects for figuring out where innocent citizens are when they go online, it's time to install the latest version of Tor. Tor is a free, open source, anonymity-enhancing tool you can use to visit websites and send email without revealing to network snoops where you live. Check it out and pass the word along.


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