In a shift expected to spark a major debate on Internet freedom, the White House is leaning toward granting the FBI's wish to make it easier to eavesdrop on online communications, insiders tell the New York Times. The FBI, which argues that advances in technology are causing its ability to monitor suspects to "go dark," has proposed an overhaul of surveillance laws that includes heavy fines for Internet companies that fail to comply with wiretap orders. Foreign companies doing business in the US would also be required to comply with orders or face fines starting at $25,000 per day.
The FBI says the plan merely brings the law up to date with modern technology, but the proposal is expected to face stiff resistance from tech firms and privacy advocates. "I think the FBI's proposal would render Internet communications less secure and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves," says a spokesman for the Center for Democracy and Technology. "It would also mean that innovators who want to avoid new and expensive mandates will take their innovations abroad and develop them there." A lawyer for tech companies fears the plan will encourage more snooping in other countries. "We’ll look a lot more like China than America after this," he says.