FCC Requires VoIP Wire Taps Just Because

from the hello-regulation dept

It’s not really a surprise, but Michael Powell and the FCC have given in to law enforcement requests and voted to require VoIP providers to provide a backdoor for law enforcement wiretapping on any “managed” VoIP call. Another article on the subject points out that they’ve exempted any “unmanaged” VoIP offering which appears to include things like Free World Dialup and voice over instant messaging. It’s a little confusing why they would pick one area and not the other, as it doesn’t necessarily support any line of reasoning. If they’re worried about “bad people” using VoIP, then why wouldn’t those same “bad people” figure out how to use FWD? If they chose not to regulate those services because they didn’t want to hurt innovation, why do non-PSTN-touching services get special treatment to innovate? It appears, honestly, that they’ve gone with the “looks like a duck” reasoning for this one. If it looks like a traditional phone service, then it has to be tapped, because we already tap traditional phone service. If it looks somehow different, then it’s free of requirements. It may be interesting to watch to see how different players work to get around these rules. As Jeff Pulver notes in one of the articles: “It’s a big sign to the industry that it’s time to innovate.”

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