27 September 2010

A wiretap-friendly Internet? Hell no

This is startling:

Federal officials are planning to seek legislation that would require social networking companies and voice-over-Internet service providers to adapt their technology so law enforcement agents can monitor users' communications to catch suspected terrorists and other criminals.
The proposal arises out of concern that technology and social customs have outpaced the law and that law enforcement authorities lack the means to monitor new methods of communication, administration officials said. But the initiative has also revived the debate over the proper balance between national security and personal privacy as well as what industry can be reasonably asked to do without stifling innovation.

Basically, the administration wants an update to CALEA (which already mandates tapping capabilities for phone and broadband companies) for all forms of Internet communications.  They're asking for companies like Skype and software like Tor to be built with backdoors so that the government can wiretap those communications if they see fit.

The New York Times adds that "officials are coalescing around several of the proposal’s likely requirements:

  • Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
  • Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
  • Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception."

Those who know me know that I am generally friendly to ideas that will help the law enforcement community do their job better.  And I'm certainly sensitive to the desire of law enforcement to gain a foothold against possible criminal enterprises.  But this one just goes too far.  Not only is it wrong, but it is unworkable.  I know for certain that guys like Jake Appelbaum will never allow Tor to be built with a backdoor.  Other open source projects, especially those based overseas, aren't going to give a shit about American laws that don't affect them, and no one is going to be able to prevent Americans from downloading such software.

Not just no, but hell no.
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