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Panel seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap order

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by tulianr, Apr 30, 2013.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    By Ellen Nakashima, Published: April 28

    A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Facebook and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort.

    Driven by FBI concerns that it is unable to tap the Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals, the task force’s proposal would penalize companies that failed to heed wiretap orders — court authorizations for the government to intercept suspects’ communications.

    There is currently no way to wiretap some of these communications methods easily, and companies effectively have been able to avoid complying with court orders. While the companies argue that they have no means to facilitate the wiretap, the government, in turn, has no desire to enter into what could be a drawn-out contempt proceeding.

    Under the draft proposal, a court could levy a series of escalating fines, starting at tens of thousands of dollars, on firms that fail to comply with wiretap orders, according to persons who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

    Instead of setting rules that dictate how the wiretap capability must be built, the proposal would let companies develop the solutions as long as those solutions yielded the needed data. That flexibility was seen as inevitable by those crafting the proposal, given the range of technology companies that might receive wiretap orders.

    “This proposal is a non-starter that would drive innovators overseas and cost American jobs,” said Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, which focuses on issues of privacy and security. “They might as well call it the Cyber Insecurity and Anti-Employment Act.”

    The Obama administration has not yet signed off on the proposal. Justice Department, FBI and White House officials declined to comment. Still, Weissmann said at the ABA discussion that the issue is the bureau’s top legislative priority this year, but he declined to provide details about the proposal.

    Some technology companies have developed a wiretap capability for some of their services. But a range of communications companies and services are not required to do so under what is known as CALEA, the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. Among those services are social media networks and the chat features on online gaming sites.

    Former officials say the challenge for investigators was exacerbated in 2010, when Google began end-to-end encryption of its e-mail and text messages after its networks were hacked. Facebook followed suit. That made it more difficult for the FBI to intercept e-mail by serving a court order on the Internet service provider, whose pipes would carry the encrypted traffic.

    The proposal would make clear that CALEA extends to Internet phone calls conducted between two computer users without going through a central company server — what is sometimes called “peer-to-peer” communication. But the heart of the proposal would add a provision to the 1968 Wiretap Act that would allow a court to levy fines.

    Susan Landau, a former Sun Microsystems distinguished engineer, has argued that wiring in an intercept capability will increase the likelihood that a company’s servers will be hacked. “What you’ve done is created a way for someone to silently go in and activate a wiretap,” she said. Traditional phone communications were susceptible to illicit surveillance as a result of the 1994 law, she said, but the problem “becomes much worse when you move to an Internet or computer-based network.”
    Proposal seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders - The Washington Post
  2. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Am I understanding this correctly, companies are going to be fined if they do not build wiretapping capabilities.

    In essence, the government is requiring companies (at the companies expense) to do their dirty work.
    kellory and tulianr like this.
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