- Is Carnivore by any other name as menacing?
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation hopes not. The government agency has confirmed it changed the name of the controversial, email sniffing software from Carnivore to DCS1000.
The name change was suggested by an independent report last year by IIT Research Institute (IITRI), a Chicago-based research group. The report also suggested some changes to the software program itself, as well as careful scrutiny of the monitoring program to prevent abuse.
"We've kind of said back in July that [a name change] was going to be inevitable because, if for nothing else, the technology is going to change. Given, No. 1, it was an unpopular name to begin with," says an FBI spokesman.
The FBI is waiting to announce further changes to the software, pending a review of the report by the US Department of Justice.
The name change is part of the government's attempt to allay fears about the digital monitoring program.
"There will be some changes to Carnivore incorporating the recommendation in the IITRI report," the FBI spokesman says, "Basically, it's just an upgrade of the current version."
While some reports indicate the DCS in the new name stands for "digital collection system," the spokesman says he wasn't certain. "I'm not sure if it means anything. I don't think it stands for anything," the spokesman says, though the 1000 refers to the first version.
"This name won't stick forever either," he says, and DCS2000 will probably be released in the not-too-distant future.
Carnivore works by capturing data packets that pass through an internet service provider (ISP). A box with the Carnivore software is installed at the ISP after agents have obtained a warrant, similar to a wiretap warrant. The software is supposed to be configured to monitor all transmissions coming from and going to a specific Internet Protocol address. That data flows through the ISP in packets, with information intended for other addresses as well.
Privacy advocates have said they're worried that the software could lead to widespread and random surveillance of other email messages.