CNET is reporting that the FBI has been approaching major search, social, and VOIP companies to request that they not object to the Bureau’s effort to mandate backdoor wiretaps into their products. While not explicitly requesting support the FBI would be pleased if these companies don’t raise too much of a stink.
Under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) which was passed in 1994, Telecommunication firms were required to give the FBI backdoor access to their call routing systems to facilitate wiretapping for ‘law enforcement’ purposes.
FBI officials are now claiming that due to the increased diversification in ways people communicate and especially due to the shift towards online communications such as instant messaging and social networks that the 1994 law needs to be modernized to force technology companies to ensure their products are ‘wiretap friendly’.
To quote a reviewer of the FBI’s draft legislation “If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding.” The FBI claims this will only apply to services that exceed a certain threshold in users yet this makes no sense as no start up is going to skip this step knowing that success as soon as their service gains traction they’ll have to rewrite their code (or break it, depending on your point of view) to allow a government agency access to their users information.
Of course this push for increased wiretap abilities is completely unnecessary as CALEA was extended in 2004 to include broadband networks. This means that the FBI can already tap ALL your online communications. They can already see what’s coming through your ‘pipes’; now it seems they want to be able to spy on your sinks and toilets too.
This issue is not new to the FBI. The term “Going Dark” has been in use since June 2008 when FBI Director Robert Mueller and his aides briefed Sens. Barbara Mikulski, Richard Shelby, and Ted Stevens (of ‘series of tubes’ and bridge to nowhere fame).
What this really amounts to is an end run around encryption in online communications. According to Steve Bock, President of Subsentio which sells CALEA compliance products another option for companies would be to “supply the government with proprietary information to decode information” obtained through a wiretap or other type of lawful interception, rather than “provide a complex system for converting the information into an industry standard format.”
Though the proposed legislation has been approved by the Justice Department the Obama Administration has not yet referred the amendments to capitol hill. It is believed at that they are not currently willing to face the privacy battle that this would entail though you can definitely expect to see the push go full throttle if Obama is reelected and no longer accountable to the electorate.
This encroachment on online privacy must be fought tooth and nail. The US Government is building a net that no one can slip throw and privacy and the 4th Amendment are the only things stopping us from having to resort to falling back on the 2nd Amendment. How else will the govt know who to snatch off the streets if they can’t spy on everything we do?
While it’s too early to contact your representatives as this law hasn’t yet been introduced you can do a few things now:
1. Research the candidates in the upcoming November elections and find out which ones support your rights to privacy and help them get elected.
3. Spread the word. Knowing is half the battle and the only chance we stand is as a united and informed front.