The FBI Wants Backdoor Access to Social Networks, VoIP and Web Email Services

The FBI is using its lobbying skills, negotiation tactics and convicting techniques to get backdoor access to social networks, VoIP providers and web email online services, warns CNET. Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google and many others are being approached in an attempt to convince their representatives not to oppose a rather shady legal proposal that would force them to give backdoor access for government surveillance.

The FBI realized wire taps and video surveillance are not enough in a world where people replace traditional communication channels with instant messaging, social media exchanges and web email. They have thus initiated meetings with industry representatives, the White House and US Senators, trying to convince them they need to track suspect’s conversations in the online world.  They have also come up with a proposal for a law they consider the best solution to their surveillance problem: forcing companies that provide instant messaging, social networking, web email and VoIP services to change their code to make all their products easy to tap in and listen to conversations.

Whichever type of service, product or app a company launches that allows two or more parties to communicate, they get to add some bits of code that make it wiretap-friendly. Apparently, there is also a certain phrasing to the law that makes the code adding compulsory only if a limit of user numbers is reached.

“(There are) significant challenges posed to the FBI in the accomplishment of our diverse mission. These include those that result from the advent of rapidly changing technology,” an FBI representative told CNET.  “A growing gap exists between the statutory authority of law enforcement to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to intercept those communications. The FBI believes that if this gap continues to grow, there is a very real risk of the government ‘going dark,’ resulting in an increased risk to national security and public safety.”

If the law passes, like it or not, we’ll have to realize nothing is really private in the online world. At a point or another, someone might tap into the conversation and listen to the exchange. Moreover, online privacy will be diminished even further. One has to wonder, what other types of communications would be developed and how big of a price tag will we pay to keep our conversations private. I can only think of telepathy for now, I wonder if there is a way to wiretap that as well.

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