PTT Subject To Police Wiretaps

In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued today, the FCC moved to include Push-To-Talk services under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) rules. These are the rules that require a telco to enable “eavesdropping” access to police and security with a court order for a given phone line. Now the walkie-talkie like PTT services offered by many carriers are also to be included. This makes good sense to us only under the modicum: “If it makes sense to tap communications, it only makes sense if agencies can tap any and all communications.” However, CALEA faces an uphill battle to include all forms of communication, whether VoIP, PTT, landline, or whatever comes in the future. Can the FCC regulators keep up with innovation? Terrorists and Tony Soprano will simply switch to the snoop-free medium. Update from Mike: It’s worth noting, by the way, that the FCC ruling has exceptions. They did exempt “non-managed” VoIP like Free World Dialup and voice-based instant messaging. Guess what Tony Soprano is going to use now? The real issue is that for every product the FCC demands a tap on, there will always be other non-tapped options, which the smart “bad guys” will use. While the FCC move appears useful, it won’t actually do much to stop criminals… but it will make life more expensive for many VoIP providers.

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