Last fall it came out that the feds were going to push for a law that would require wiretap backdoors
in all forms of internet communications. As many people pointed out at the time, there are all sorts of reasons why this is a very bad idea
, starting with the fact that putting such backdoors into all forms of communication will certainly lead to them being abused. And, when we say "abused," we don't just mean by the feds -- who have a long history of illegally abusing
surveillance powers -- but by others as well. If the feds really think that only they will have true access to these backdoors, they're a lot more naive than we thought. This is a catastrophe in waiting.
Either way, it appears that the geniuses over at the Justice Department and the FBI don't seem to care. Despite plenty of people raising these concerns, it's still going forward with a push for such laws
. The plan that will be pushed would require any technology provider to offer up a way for law enforcement to spy on "Web-based e-mail, social networking sites, and peer-to-peer communications technology." Of course, the feds already have subpoena powers to get email and social networking info, when appropriate. And, as Kevin Bankston points out in the article linked above, the FBI demanded and received wiretapping abilities over such things a few years ago -- but hasn't explained why that wasn't sufficient. Either way, it's the P2P part that's really questionable, because basically they're asking for a way to wiretap encrypted voice systems like Skype.
What's stunning to me is that the feds don't even seem to consider the inevitable unintended consequences of forcing such wiretapping backdoors into these forms of communications. Such backdoors will almost certainly be hacked by those with malicious intent. If the feds thought Wikileaks and groups like Anonymous were troubling now
, just wait until they can also record and listen to a growing number of voice calls.
And, for those who support these kinds of wiretaps, claiming that without them the FBI will "have no way to know" what these people are talking about, that's a bogus complaint. There are all sorts of other ways to figure out what people are doing. It's called basic detective work, and it's what our law enforcement folks are supposed to be doing. Just because it sometimes takes work
is no reason to throw our basic privacy rights out the window.