from the thanks-to-Mr-Snowden dept
Even if it now seems likely that Linus Torvalds wasn't approached to add a backdoor to Linux, there are plenty of others that were asked and acquiesced, as this story from The Globe and Mail in Canada makes clear:
For nearly two decades, Ottawa officials have told telecommunications companies that one of the conditions of obtaining a licence to use wireless spectrum is to provide government with the capability to monitor the devices that use the spectrum. The Sept. 17 kickoff of the auction-countdown process will underscore that commitment, made out of sight of most Canadians because it is deemed too sensitive by the government.
The secret agreement apparently contains specific details of what telecom companies must provide:
"Real-time, full-time" eavesdropping on conversations is just one of the capabilities sought by police, according to the standards. Authorities also want records of call logs, texts, keystrokes and other data, including "the most accurate geographical location known."
Communications made with encryption provided by the carrier must be decrypted:
Carriers that help their customers scramble communications must decrypt them. "Law enforcement requires that any type of encryption algorithm that is initiated by the service provider must be provided to the law-enforcement agency unencrypted."
No doubt, many people might think phone companies should provide this kind of information, provided a properly executed court warrant is presented. What's problematic here is that this has been going secretly on for 20 years, with no public oversight and with no debate about where to draw the line for such surveillance. That discussion would hardly compromise police operations, but would provide vital transparency and legitimacy. The fact that two decades after the practice started the Canadian people are finally hearing about this capability now is probably yet another beneficial knock-on effect of Edward Snowden's leaks.