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FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites – now

Posted on May 7th, 2012 at 17:39 by Paul Jay in category: News -- Write a comment


CNET learns the FBI is quietly pushing its plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers, and that the bureau is asking Internet companies not to oppose a law making those backdoors mandatory.

The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.

In meetings with industry representatives, the White House, and U.S. senators, senior FBI officials argue the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, CNET has learned.

The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

“If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding,” an industry representative who has reviewed the FBI’s draft legislation told CNET. The requirements apply only if a threshold of a certain number of users is exceeded, according to a second industry representative briefed on it.

The FBI’s proposal would amend a 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, that currently applies only to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks.

  1. > The requirements apply only if a threshold of a certain number of users is exceeded

    Wow, how dumb is that? If you wanted to coordinate illegal activity with people undetected, you’d get your own app. It wouldn’t be difficult, presumably, for someone to create a template that anyone can modify and build, and each criminal ring can have its own mini-IM with only a handful of users and not exceed the threshold.

  2. The safest assumption is that all media are monitored. CALEA gave broad powers implemented by the phone companies to allow monitoring of suspected individuals’ connections. Data was included. It is a logical step now that so many people connect other than by landline. And wouldn’t it be easier to get the hubs to co-operate rather than going after the ends of the communication?

    There were reasonable precautions built in to the Act. Unless it was a life-and-death situation, there should be a warrant from a judge. However it turns out that life-and-death situations happen a lot on fishing expeditions. Who knew?

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