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updated 4/11/2011 5:51:14 PM ET 2011-04-11T21:51:14

France, Canada and Russia are all embroiled in Internet privacy battles that could significantly affect the delicate relationship between Web users and the government.

Big Brother is watching you

A recently enacted French data retention law is drawing fervent opposition from a number of companies, including Google and eBay.

The new law mandates that Internet service providers keep usernames, passwords, dates and times of online activity, phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses of all customers for 12 months. The records can then be made available to the police and other government agencies, the technology website GigaOm reported.

Not surprisingly, this data retention law isn’t sitting well with supporters of a Big Brotherless Web, who feel the law gives the government undue control over its citizenry.

The French Association of Internet Community Services (ASIC) announced it is challenging the law. Twenty-six companies are backing the ASIC’s move, including Google, eBay and the Paris-based video-sharing service Dailymotion.

“Several elements [of the law] are problematic, including the fact that there was no notification from the European Commission,” Benoit Tabaka, ASIC secretary and director, said.

Canada wants control, too

The Canadian Conservative government, if it’s re-elected, wants to pass a comprehensive “crime and justice” bill that would imbue the Canadian government with the right to intercept users’ Internet communications.

A post on the website Boing Boing points to an article by technology columnist Michael Geist, who said the new bill — which includes provisions to allow for real-time government surveillance of online activity and for ISPs to obtain customer data for use by the authorities — would “have the potential to fundamentally reshape the Internet in Canada.”

“Few would argue that it is important to ensure that law enforcement has the necessary tools to address online crime issues. But these proposals come at an enormous financial and privacy cost, with as yet limited evidence that the current legal framework has impeded importance police work,” Geist wrote on his website.

A small privacy victory in Russia

The Kremlin last week rejected a senior security official’s proposal that Russia ban Skype, Gmail and Hotmail for their potential threats to national security.

Alexander Andreyechkin, chief of the Federal Security Service (FSB), was told that he had “abused his authority” by suggesting that encrypted online communications providers such as Skype and Gmail “pose large-scale threat to Russia’s security,” the Associated Press reported.

The push for limiting open lines of Web communication came April 8, just a day after Russian President Dmitri Medvedev took to his LiveJournal blog to condemn whoever had been hacking it for the previous two weeks.

Agence France-Presse reported that Medvedev called the online attacks “outrageous and illegal,” and demanded law enforcement agencies launch an investigation.

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