Police Spying: Obama Moves to Expand Internet Wiretaps
By Andre Damon
April 30, 2013
A US government task force is seeking to force companies such as Google, Dropbox and Facebook to create backdoors for wiretapping user communications, according to a report published Monday in the Washington Post.
According to the Post, the efforts are being driven by the FBI, part of the Obama administration’s Justice Department, though the White House has not formally announced a position. However, the panel is preparing legislation that would vastly expand police spying powers.
The FBI claims that, under current laws, internet communications companies can effectively refuse to comply with a court-ordered wiretap by claiming that there is no practical way for them to allow the government to spy on their users’ communications. The proposed law would force companies to rebuild their services to allow the government to monitor communications.
The proposed measure, which FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann last month called a “top priority” for the agency, is being developed as an extension of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, known as CALEA, which granted the federal government sweeping powers to spy on US citizens.
Originally, the act applied only to digital telephone networks. However, it was extended in 2005 to include internet communications.
Internet service providers (ISPs), which control the connections between internet users, are currently forced to allow the government to spy on most users’ communications. However, the increasing adoption of SSL encryption, which both Facebook and Gmail implemented by default in 2010, limited the government’s power to collect personal data through the ISPs.
The FBI’s proposal would negate the privacy offered by encryption by forcing companies like Google and Facebook to allow direct access to the companies’ computer servers.