Feds Pushing For New Legally Required Wiretap Backdoor To All Internet Communications

from the unintended-consequences... dept

The unfortunate, if not surprising, news story making the rounds today is that the feds in the US are looking to pass new laws to legally require a wiretap backdoor in every kind of internet communication offering. Yes, you read that right. If there's any way to communicate online, the US government is demanding the right to be able to wiretap it. Any company that doesn't comply will face fines. This despite the long history of the US government massively abusing its wiretapping privileges repeatedly throughout history.

And, yes, this would supposedly apply to non-US communications services as well:
Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
Yeah, that'll go over well. It's difficult to see how this is any different than foreign governments demanding access to others' communications as well. It's pretty ridiculous for President Obama to talk about open internet principles to the UN, while cooking this up at the same time. Pushing for this also means that the US will have no excuse when the governments of Iran, China and elsewhere also demand backdoors into all US-based communications.

And, really, that's the biggest problem with this law. Beyond the inevitable privacy violations by the feds, putting backdoors into communications technologies guarantees that those backdoors will be used by others (outside of the federal government) to snoop on communications. The FBI and the NSA (who are pushing for this) are being totally and completely naive if they think that they're the only ones who will use this. We've pointed out in the past how large scale surveillance systems mean large scale security risks, and this is no different. We showed how a similar surveillance system in Greece was hacked into to spy on government officials. US officials should be aware that they're opening themselves up to these same potential risks.

And, the simple fact is: this won't help and it won't matter. The people who really want to communicate secretly will still use tools to communicate secretly. The feds are (once again) being naive to think that such tools won't exist and won't be widely known and widely utilized. Instead, all this will do is open up everyone else to abuse of the system by other governments, organized crime, people with malicious intent and (of course) the US government.

Filed Under: encryption, feds, privacy, security, wiretap


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  1. identicon
    David Sugar, 27 Sep 2010 @ 1:07pm

    GNU Telephony Statement on new Internet Surveillance Laws

    Speaking on behalf of the GNU Telephony project, we do intend to openly defy such a law should it actually come to pass, so I want to be very clear on this statement. It is not simply that we will choose to publicly defy the imposition of such an illegitimate law, but that we will explicitly continue to publicly develop and distribute free software (that is software that offers the freedom to use, inspect, and modify) enabling secure peer-to-peer communication privacy through encryption that is made available directly to anyone worldwide. Clearly such software is especially needed in those places, such as in the United States, where basic human freedoms and individual dignity seem most threatened today.

    In the United States the 4th amendment did not come about simply because it was impractical to directly spy on everyone on such a large scale. Nor does it end simply because it may now be technically feasible to do so. Communication privacy furthermore is essential to the normal functioning of free societies, whether speaking of whistle-blowers, journalists who have to protect their sources, human rights and peace activists engaging in legitimate political dissent, workers engaged in union organizing, or lawyers who must protect the confidentiality of their privileged communications with clients.

    However, to fully appreciate the effect of such surveillance on human societies, imagine being among several hundred million people who wake up each day having to prove they are not a “terrorist” by whatever arbitrary means the government has decided to both define the terms of such a crime and whatever arbitrary methods unknown to you that they might choose to define you as such, and where even your prosecution is carried out under the immunity of “state secrets” that all police states use to abuse of their own citizens. Such a society is one who’s very foundation is built on the premise of everyone being guilty until proven innocent and where due process does not exist. It is the imposition of such a illegitimate society that we choose to openly oppose, and to do so in this manner.

    David Alexander Sugar
    Chief Facilitator
    GNU Telephony

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