Feds Want to Make It Easier to Eavesdrop Online

Bill seeks to expand government's wiretapping power
By Emily Rauhala,  Newser User
Posted Sep 27, 2010 6:25 AM CDT
Updated Sep 27, 2010 7:48 AM CDT
The feds say online wiretaps will keep us safe.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The feds want to overhaul wiretapping regulations to expand their ability to eavesdrop online, reports the New York Times. The Obama administration plans to submit a bill to Congress next year that would require all service providers to be technically capable of wiretapping the communications they enable, from encrypted BlackBerry emails to Skype messaging. Law enforcement types say their surveillance capabilities are "going dark" as everybody—from mob bosses to drug cartels—turns away from telephones.

Officials point to the case of the failed Times Square bomber, who was discovered to have communicated online via a service that didn't have the ability to intercept his messaging; even if investigators had caught wind of Faisal Shahzad's plans before the attempt, their ability to wiretap him would have been delayed. Of course, not everybody agrees. Listening in online threatens the “Internet revolution,” says a rep from the Center for Democracy and Technology. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.” And, says one prof, forcing firms to find ways to "unscramble" encrypted messages could backfire. “I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he says. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”

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