Government seeks wiretap for Internet communications

By Mike Fischer on September 28, 2010, 10:00 AM
As if September hasn't been an interesting enough month for governmental Internet regulation, the Obama administration is now pushing for a federal law that would require built-in backdoors for law enforcement surveillance of email, instant messaging, and other communication tools. Many of these services, which maintain the security of their content through detailed encryption methods, would need to implement procedures allowing them to intercept and decrypt messages when served with a wiretap order.

If this sounds threatening to you, you're not alone. The ACLU is already on the case, condemning the proposal as a "huge privacy invasion." James Dempsey, VP of the Center for Democracy and Technology, called the proposed law a challenge to the "fundamental elements of the Internet revolution." As providers will foot the bill for implementing changes and be forced to expend resources that could be better spent elsewhere, the government may be imposing limitations that stifle product innovation and prevent start-up companies from getting off the ground.

But Valerie Caproni, general counsel for the FBI, defends the proposed law stating, "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." The government argues that its information gathering methods are "going dark," a term used to describe the limitations of traditional wiretap methods given the decreasing importance of telephone communication.

The government maintains that any type of electronic monitoring would still require a court order, and that the interception ability would lie with the service provider and not in the hands of a governmental agency, thus retaining confidentiality. But the opening of security holes could lead to exploits from the outside, and with the major social networking privacy leaks of the last year still fresh in our minds, the move could undermine user confidence in those services significantly. The proposal is expected to be submitted to Congress when it reconvenes next year.




User Comments: 24

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

On the surface this sounds invasive, but this law will still require a search warrant to conduct these Internet sniffing activities. It's no different than what they do now with wiretapping a telephone under a search warrant which everyone is perfectly fine with.

If you don't engage in criminal behavior, you won't have your e-mail snooped in on. Just that simple.

Phraun said:

I'd rather they had to work for the few they need than be freely handed everybody's communications. There's really nothing to stop them from abusing such back doors if they do get built in.

motrin said:

phraun said:There's really nothing to stop them from abusing such back doors if they do get built in.

agreed, after all humans will be running this. not all can be trusted to treat the back doors as intended

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

TomSEA said:

On the surface this sounds invasive, but this law will still require a search warrant to conduct these Internet sniffing activities. It's no different than what they do now with wiretapping a telephone under a search warrant which everyone is perfectly fine with.

If you don't engage in criminal behavior, you won't have your e-mail snooped in on. Just that simple.

..and of course the government would NEVER do anything illegal, right?

Say goodbye to your civil liberties. Big Brother is listening.

Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

This ranks high on the list of worst ideas regarding user privacy I have heard about in a long time

Even if we don't consider the problems associated with the goverment wiretapping laws (like they have never been misued before, and how much easier it becomes when it's just pressing a few buttons on a terminal)

It will be just a matter of weeks untill the bad guys manage to exploit this backdoor and then our SSL connections could just be dropped entirely, it would be just as plain text communication

Trillionsin Trillionsin said:

Per Hansson said:

This ranks high on the list of worst ideas regarding user privacy I have heard about in a long time

Even if we don't consider the problems associated with the goverment wiretapping laws (like they have never been misued before, and how much easier it becomes when it's just pressing a few buttons on a terminal)

It will be just a matter of weeks untill the bad guys manage to exploit this backdoor and then our SSL connections could just be dropped entirely, it would be just as plain text communication

This is along the lines of what I was thinking. Abuse of this system could be taken to an extreme...

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

If the US. government is going to spy on private lifes, then atleast they should do I right. Over in Sweden, as the IPRED-law is currently common practice, wiretapping really stinks. Some of my buddies use torrent-downloads atleast 5 times a day, and the government isn't doing squat. Only 3 people got fined for torrenting last month... that is way below the FRA's (The "defense radio-establishment" initial promises of 80!

Hopefully, the US. wiretapping-organizations will take severe notice of hacker-abilities...

anguis said:

What a ridiculous proposal. Hansson is exactly right. If you create a backdoor to any type of secure service, IT'S GOING TO BE FOUND. Also, the service itself would need to create these backdoors. That presents a HUGE problem with COST and TIME. Many companies struggle as it is with fixing vulnerabilities. When the backdoors they make get discovered, they will need to patch them and make another.

tonylukac said:

Our postal mail is not opened and read. Why should it be any different with email?

bakape said:

tonylukac said:

Our postal mail is not opened and read. Why should it be any different with email?

Because there are no hackers in the government (or at least tech-savvy people). Hence, the flaming internet.

On second thought, if the government is full of black hatters, this all makes perfect sense. ^^

kimdaystar said:

watachoka " swahili word meaning they wont make it"

ravisunny2 ravisunny2, TS Ambassador, said:

Our postal mail is not opened and read. Why should it be any different with email?

Are you sure ?

Could you tell if your letter had been opened by an expert ?

Guest said:

Post in the UK is remarkably quick, they would have to have known a letter was being sent, and where it was in the system, get authority from royal mail to seize it, open it with such precision as to not disturb it at all, and then place it back in the system for it to be delivered on the time it was stated to arrive.. and how many letters are sent each day?

jonelsorel said:

TomSEA said:

On the surface this sounds invasive, but this law will still require a search warrant to conduct these Internet sniffing activities. It's no different than what they do now with wiretapping a telephone under a search warrant which everyone is perfectly fine with.

If you don't engage in criminal behavior, you won't have your e-mail snooped in on. Just that simple.

If you believe that you're either one of them, or an incredibly gullible person which knows very little about his government.

Make sure to vote next time, ok?

MrAnderson said:

It sounds scary, but I'm not against it given what is being proposed.

Our government does need to keep up with the shift in technological communication and the internet is a big part of that. As long as similar safeties are in place that will protect the public from missuse (basically prohibiting just doing whatever the authority wants); this seems to be the case. I don't have any problem with it. I think this is something that will eventually happen regardless of how afriad we are of having big brother browse along with us.

It will require resources to monitor and track data so they will pict targets that are worth their time... don't be worth their time...

jonelsorel said:

MrAnderson said:

It sounds scary, but I'm not against it given what is being proposed.

Our government does need to keep up with the shift in technological communication and the internet is a big part of that. As long as similar safeties are in place that will protect the public from missuse (basically prohibiting just doing whatever the authority wants); this seems to be the case. I don't have any problem with it. I think this is something that will eventually happen regardless of how afriad we are of having big brother browse along with us.

It will require resources to monitor and track data so they will pict targets that are worth their time... don't be worth their time...

Do you HONESTLY think that governments wiretap their citizens only AFTER there's a police record with their name on it?

Do you really think those "terrorists" that never get caught use MSN, Yahoo Messenger or AOL to send each other vital mission details?

Is the US - or the world - any safer after all the laws regarding national security passed since 2001, including that allowing the government to kill "high risk" individuals overseas?

Wake up, sleepy America!

Guest said:

@jonelsorel you are spot on in your replies to this topic. The only thing I have to add is this quote:

"People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both." - Ben Franklin

Guest said:

NO MORE government control !!!! So, STOP VOTING THE SAME SAD ONES IN OFFICE OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN! WAKE UP PEOPLE THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU AND THEY HAVE PROVED IT BOTH PARTIES KICK THEM OUT START FRESH EACH TIME.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

+1 Per Hansson

TomSEA, that's possibly the most ridiculous thing I've seen in a long time. If you actually believe that I take pity on you. /facepalm @ sheeple

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Totally agree with Per Hansson's views. Governments (no matter if they are democratic or otherwise) always want to control means of communications according to their agendas, which can change according to time and whichever stupid ideas these ****** can come up with.

I think if things could be completely transparent with regard to each and every aspect of governmental business, probability is the government(s) will be the biggest violators of laws instead of the citizens.

Although this may do one more thing in case this ever becomes a law, it may spark more 'independent' minded programmers to circumvent these 'backdoors' for good, and everyone can still live happily after all

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

More and more, the Obama administration is starting to be a reiteration of the Bush Whitehouse. When you add this crap, to the legal seizure IP domains, and stir in a couple of wars, it almost seems like somehow, we've all been teleported to China.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the Wall Street Bailouts

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hmm speaking of which ..... I was wondering if there will be a movie titled 'Wall Street Bandits and White House Thugs' ..... or something similar

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

More like a Christmas toy for budding investment bankers, "President Obama's Mint Your own Money Printing Press". (Ages 6 to Bernie Nadoff)

The first trillion dollars is included, yacht, and multiple vacation homes sold separately.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Well that seemed bit too civilized for this bunch of ******, I remember something from Ibn-e-Khaldoon's book which said something like that 'never appoint someone who is a tax payer (i.e. businessmen/women etc.) in an governmental position ....... because he/she will always make laws which suits them, and or find ways how to circumvent these laws to gain fair or unfair advantage'.

Funnily enough, democracy have the tendency to impose will of the 'minority' on the 'majority' (at times); or majority which doesn't know what it is doing can suppress the minority which actually is intelligent enough to understand what may be right thing to do.

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