"Carnivore" is a specialized computer developed by the FBI and equipped with software
that can scan Internet traffic at extremely high speed. It attaches to the systems
of Internet service providers (ISPs) and can be used either legitimately, to observe
Internet use that is subject to a valid search warrant, or illegitimately to observe
the behavior of everyone using a particular ISP.
When it first came to light, Carnivore appeared to be used only to scan e-mail
traffic. It appears, however, that current or planned versions of Carnivore can
reconstruct Web pages viewed by the subject of surveillance and capture voice-over-Web
The major concern with Carnivore is that there are few ways to ensure that government
investigators will use it only for legitimate purposes and within legitimate bounds.
The FBI has taken halting steps to reassure Congress and the public that Carnivore
will not invade citizens' privacy, but the most respected independent institutions
have been unwilling to assist the FBI.
If it is to be used at all, the Carnivore
system should be made subject to strict controls and independent monitoring. At this
point, neither of these conditions exist.
ISPs should not be conscripted as the deputies of law enforcement agents. This
places the costs of investigations on ISPs and Internet users rather than the
public fisc, and it may cause consumers to distrust and resent their ISPs.
Consumers should educate themselves by asking their ISPs the following questions:
In light of its unseemly original name, the FBI has begun calling Carnivore "DCS 1000."
"DCS" is short for "digital collection system."
- Has the FBI ever asked to install Carnivore (or EtherPeek, or any
- Has Carnivore (or a similar system) ever been installed on their facilities?
- Is Carnivore (or a similar system) now installed on their facilities?
- If yes to 1. or 2., what was the ISP's response? Did the ISP
offer to obtain the information under court order so that Carnivore would
not be necessary? Did the ISP retain counsel to fight such a broad search
in the courts, and appeal it to the highest level?
- If yes to 2. or 3., what steps did the ISP take to assure that the
privacy of its users would be protected? Did the ISP gain access to
Carnivore's source code to verify FBI claims? Did the ISP check the
information FBI obtained from the Carnivore machine, either remotely or
through physical collection on recordable media?
- If yes to 2. or 3., is the ISP aware of any other capabilities FBI might
- If FBI or any other government agency gains or attempts to gain access
to all user traffic information on the ISP, will the ISP inform its
users? Under what circumstances would the ISP inform its users of
unwarranted monitoring by investigators?
Carnivore Bites Off More Than We Might Choose, by Sonia Arrison, Pacific Research
Institute (December 14, 2000)
Final Carnivore Report Offers No New Answers, House Majority
Leader Dick Armey (December 14, 2000)
Independent Technical Review of the Carnivore System Final
Report, IIT Research Institute (December 8, 2000)
Comments on the Carnivore System Technical Review, Steven
M. Bellovin, AT&T Laboratories; Matt Blaze, AT&T Laboratories; David Farber,
University of Pennsylvania; Peter Neumann, SRI International; Eugene Spafford,
Purdue University CERIAS (December 3, 2000)
Letter to Carnivore Review Panel from David Sobel,
Electronic Privacy Information Center (December 1, 2000)
Comments Regarding Carnivore Review Team Draft Report,
Barry Steinhardt and Christopher Chiu, American Civil Liberties Union
Report: Independent Technical Review of the Carnivore System, IIT Research Institute
(November 17, 2000)
Carnivore’s on the Menu by Sonia Arrison, Pacific Research Institute (October 2000)
on the Carnivore Review, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (October 19, 2000)
Another Week, Another FBI Embarrassment, post to the Interesting People list (October 6,
Search Warrants for Online Data Soar by Will Rodger, USATODAY.com (July 28, 2000)
The Fourth Amendment and Carnivore Statement of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary
United States House of Representatives (July 28, 2000)
Stop Carnivore Letter from Congressional Leaders to Attorney General Janet Reno (July 27, 2000)
The Fourth Amendment and the Internet Testimony before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary by Robert Corn-Revere, Hogan & Hartson (July 24, 2000)