Fresh proposals to investigate crime in cyberspace are being promised, after the so-called "snoopers' charter" was dropped from the Queen's Speech.
The measures to be brought forward would help protect "the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace".
The main plan is to find a way to more closely match internet protocol (IP) addresses to individuals, to identify who has sent an email or made a call.
There are a number of issues with this from both a technical and a privacy stand point. Firstly there are not enough IP addresses in the current system (IPv4) to allocate one per device so instantly the proposal fails as it will not be possible to match an IP to a person. The only option is the implementation of the much awaited IPv6, this does have more than enough addresses to allocate a unique IP per device.
This however isn't the final solution the problem, a lot of internet users especially home users connect to the internet using a broadband router which have natting capabilities allowing multiple people to connect to the home network, this is very useful technology and is often employed in businesses as well to minimise the number of IP addresses that are required.
The downside of this for the new proposals is that is that it is very hard to know who is using the natted IP address, as to the rest of the world all the traffic comes from a single IP address. In the home this isn't to bad, it might be 3 or 4 people sharing, but in the world place it could be many hundreds if not thousands of people all appearing to come from the same IP address, making it impossible to uniquely identify a single person.
In addition to this is the problem of anonymous proxies like TOR which are designed specifically to make it impossible to identify a specific person.
These are just some of the technical issues that would need to be gotten over before anything proposed would actually be on any use.
On the other side we have the privacy issues, being able to uniquely identify a person and effectively track them across the internet is a very worrying prospect. What is there to stop the government or other agencies from collecting all of this information and using it to profile people.
The draft EU data protection legislation is looking to make technologies such as browser fingerprinting illegal in order to stop people from being tracked and profiled online, the introduction of a system where an IP will map to a person flies directly in the face of this law, and will allow for invisible, intrusive and potentially dangerous tracking of individuals movements to made without their knowledge or consent.
Who is going to maintain this list of IP addresses and who they are assigned to? Given all of the security breaches they seem to be common place on the internet today, who do you trust to keep that information both safe and secure?
For more information you can read the original post on the BBC website.