Government Officials Frustrated Over Telecom Companies That Are Too Sophisticated to Wiretap

October 19, 2010

(ChattahBox U.S. News) – Recent upgrades in telecom services have been a boon to consumers who are eager to use new technology — but have irritated law enforcement officials who say they can no longer wiretap the companies’ phone systems, the New York Times reports.

A 1994 federal law requires telecom carriers to make sure their systems can be wiretapped, but when these companies start up new services or upgrade their systems, their wiretapping capabilities can often be disrupted. This has caused significant frustration for federal agencies, because government technology often lags behind that of the private sector, making their systems unable to gain wiretapping access to some carriers, the Times reports.One large carrier’s system failed to actualize over 100 court-ordered wiretapping requests from 2008 to 2009, with the government unable to complete the initial wiretaps for eight months under that order. The FBI spends approximately $20 million annually to adjust telecom systems and make them wiretap-compliant.

Telecom companies can face fines if the government is unable to complete wiretaps on their systems, but those fines are almost never instituted, the Times notes. However, in light of worsening delays, the Obama administration is in the process of creating new penalties that could spur telecom carriers into action and ensure their compliance.


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