Feds Propose Extending Big Brother Powers to Internet
September 27, 2010
(ChattahBox Technology News—Big Brother is watching. The New York Times reports today that the federal government, says it needs to update its wiretapping powers to cover the new methods of 21st century Internet communication. Much like the transition from landlines to cell phones and digital networks made possible under the 1994 Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act, federal law enforcement officials plan to propose a new bill that would extend their wiretapping capabilities to a whole new range of Internet-based communication services, including Facebook, Skype and BlackBerry devices. Critics of the proposal are concerned the bill would violate privacy rights and fundamentally change the way the Internet is structured. Industry critics argue mandated changes to software and encryption services would be too costly and stifle innovation. But the feds counter the same arguments were used when the government sought to to wiretap cell phones and Broadband servers.
Charlie Savage writes:
“Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.”
“The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.”
Federal officials point out that any wiretapping of Internet communication services, would still be subjected to legal review.
“We’re talking about lawfully authorized intercepts,” said Valerie E. Caproni, general counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security.”
Still, the new bill would be intentionally vague to ensure that all manner of present and future Internet-based communication methods would be covered.
Big Brother indeed.