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Big Brother?

Posted by Boghound on May 18, 2013


US President Planning Online Wiretapping Law

As you know, the British Labour Government will surely go down in history for its extensive use of CCTV cameras, but in the meanwhile, Barack Obama can become known for his online wiretapping laws.

Media reports say that Barack Obama is going to end the long-running debate over online snooping with a legislation allowing law-enforcement agencies tapping into many types of online communications.

Everyone understands that bringing in this law will surely have political, technical and legal obstacles. Indeed, if Obama gets it through it would really represent a sea change in American culture. Industry experts point out that if he succeeds, the FBI and other agencies will have a right to snoop on voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) services like Skype and real-time chats.

Apparently, it would end a regime where the FBI has difficultly snooping but is able to eavesdrop on traditional telephone calls. Of course, tech firms hate the idea, which would likely face stiff opposition in Congress. At the moment, spooks can ask the courts to wiretap almost anything, but only traditional telecommunications carriers are demanded to make it easy.

The law in question – Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act – doesn’t apply to any of Microsoft’s services, for example. This includes Skype, as it doesn’t class Microsoft as a traditional telecommunications carrier.

Thus, Obama’s new legislation would encompass VoIP, chat and any other online communication services. However, it is still unclear how tech companies could be compelled to help the authorities unscramble encrypted communications, apart from providing access. Actually, Obama’s proposed legislation is a slightly watered down version of what the Federal Bureau of Investigation wants. The FBI had called for a blanket requirement that ISPs provide authorized officials the same kind of sweeping, turn-key access to their networks that phone companies do.

However, tech firms, civil libertarians and some government officials claimed that it was impractical for smaller firms and such back doors can present serious security risks. Some of the critics insist that the fact the President would end up pushing the legislation will make him the punching bag for every American citizen who is already worried about their government.

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