Sunday, August 14, 2005

Big Brother is Surfing...

Critics Slam Net Wiretapping Rule

Wired | August 12 2005

An FCC ruling that internet telephony services must provide the same built-in wiretapping capabilities as conventional phone companies has civil libertarians feeling burned.

"I think a legal challenge is highly likely at this point," said John Morris, an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The FCC announced (.pdf) last week that some voice over internet protocol, or VOIP, companies are substantial replacements for old-fashioned telephone service, and must equip their systems to respond to federal wiretap orders.

The services will have 18 months to comply with the order, which also applies to cable-modem companies and other broadband providers.

While the full text of the ruling has yet to be released, critics say the announcement marks a significant expansion of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, which drew a line between "information services" and phone networks.

"The essential compromise of CALEA was hands off the internet, and that promise has been broken," said Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kurt Opsahl.

The FBI already has the necessary capabilities to conduct surveillance of internet activities, and the FCC's order runs contrary to Congress' intent when it passed the law, said Opsahl.


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