FBI asking Internet Companies for Wiretap-Friendly Back Door

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The push to make the internet a controlled space used to spy on citizens, where supposedly “private” information is automatically shared with authorities, might soon reach another threshold. A new report suggests that the FBI is currently discussing with major internet companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and Google to build backdoor accesses to their services to facilitate government surveillance. The FBI is also attempting to convince these companies to support an upcoming law that would allow the outright spying of social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers. The law, like many other similar ones that are being proposed and adopted, is in direct violation with the 4th Amendment, which states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Of course, those who wrote the Bill of Rights were not expecting the advent of the internet and the storing of information on remote servers. The application of its principles is however nebulous today. However, if those in power truly wished (and if citizens somewhat cared) to preserve the spirit of the Amendment (which was created to protect citizens from government oppression and tyranny) they would have extended the principles of the Fourth Amendment to cyberspace. We are however witnessing the exact opposite: The advent of the internet, of social networks and other technologies appears to be the perfect opportunity for state authorities to deny these historic rights to citizens and to move towards a high tech police state.

Here’s an article on these FBI discussions with internet companies.

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites – now

CNET learns the FBI is quietly pushing its plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers, and that the bureau is asking Internet companies not to oppose a law making those backdoors mandatory.

The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.

In meetings with industry representatives, the White House, and U.S. senators, senior FBI officials argue the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, CNET has learned.

The FBI general counsel’s office has drafted a proposed law that the bureau claims is the best solution: requiring that social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

“If you create a service, product, or app that allows a user to communicate, you get the privilege of adding that extra coding,” an industry representative who has reviewed the FBI’s draft legislation told CNET. The requirements apply only if a threshold of a certain number of users is exceeded, according to a second industry representative briefed on it.

The FBI’s proposal would amend a 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, that currently applies only to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks.

FBI Director Robert Mueller is not asking companies to support the bureau’s CALEA expansion, but instead is “asking what can go in it to minimize impacts,” one participant in the discussions says. That included a scheduled trip this month to the West Coast — which was subsequently postponed — to meet with Internet companies’ CEOs and top lawyers.

A further expansion of CALEA is unlikely to be applauded by tech companies, their customers, or privacy groups. Apple (which distributes iChat and FaceTime) is currently lobbying on the topic, according to disclosure documents filed with Congress two weeks ago. Microsoft (which owns Skype and Hotmail) says its lobbyists are following the topic because it’s “an area of ongoing interest to us.” Google, Yahoo, and Facebook declined to comment.

In February 2011, CNET was the first to report that then-FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni was planning to warn Congress of what the bureau calls its “Going Dark” problem, meaning that its surveillance capabilities may diminish as technology advances. Caproni singled out “Web-based e-mail, social-networking sites, and peer-to-peer communications” as problems that have left the FBI “increasingly unable” to conduct the same kind of wiretapping it could in the past.

In addition to the FBI’s legislative proposal, there are indications that the Federal Communications Commission is considering reinterpreting CALEA to demand that products that allow video or voice chat over the Internet — from Skype to Google Hangouts to Xbox Live — include surveillance backdoors to help the FBI with its “Going Dark” program. CALEA applies to technologies that are a “substantial replacement” for the telephone system.

“We have noticed a massive uptick in the amount of FCC CALEA inquiries and enforcement proceedings within the last year, most of which are intended to address ‘Going Dark’ issues,” says Christopher Canter, lead compliance counsel at the Marashlian and Donahue law firm, which specializes in CALEA. “This generally means that the FCC is laying the groundwork for regulatory action.”

Subsentio, a Colorado-based company that sells CALEA compliance products and worked with the Justice Department when it asked the FCC to extend CALEA seven years ago, says the FBI’s draft legislation was prepared with the compliance costs of Internet companies in mind.

In a statement to CNET, Subsentio President Steve Bock said that the measure provides a “safe harbor” for Internet companies as long as the interception techniques are “‘good enough’ solutions approved by the attorney general.”

Another option that would be permitted, Bock said, is if companies “supply the government with proprietary information to decode information” obtained through a wiretap or other type of lawful interception, rather than “provide a complex system for converting the information into an industry standard format.”

A representative for the FBI told CNET today that: “(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. 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.”

Next steps
The FBI’s legislation, which has been approved by the Department of Justice, is one component of what the bureau has internally called the “National Electronic Surveillance Strategy.” Documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation show that since 2006, Going Dark has been a worry inside the bureau, which employed 107 full-time equivalent people on the project as of 2009, commissioned a RAND study, and sought extensive technical input from the bureau’s secretive Operational Technology Division in Quantico, Va. The division boasts of developing the “latest and greatest investigative technologies to catch terrorists and criminals.”

But the White House, perhaps less inclined than the bureau to initiate what would likely be a bruising privacy battle, has not sent the FBI’s CALEA amendments to Capitol Hill, even though they were expected last year. (A representative for Sen. Patrick Leahy, head of the Judiciary committee and original author of CALEA, said today that “we have not seen any proposals from the administration.”)

Mueller said in December that the CALEA amendments will be “coordinated through the interagency process,” meaning they would need to receive administration-wide approval.

Stewart Baker, a partner at Steptoe and Johnson who is the former assistant secretary for policy at Homeland Security, said the FBI has “faced difficulty getting its legislative proposals through an administration staffed in large part by people who lived through the CALEA and crypto fights of the Clinton administration, and who are jaundiced about law enforcement regulation of technology — overly jaundiced, in my view.”

On the other hand, as a senator in the 1990s, Vice President Joe Biden introduced a bill at the FBI’s behest that echoes the bureau’s proposal today. Biden’s bill said companies should “ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.” (Biden’s legislation spurred the public release of PGP, one of the first easy-to-use encryption utilities.)

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. An FCC representative referred questions to the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, which declined to comment.

From the FBI’s perspective, expanding CALEA to cover VoIP, Web e-mail, and social networks isn’t expanding wiretapping law: If a court order is required today, one will be required tomorrow as well. Rather, it’s making sure that a wiretap is guaranteed to produce results.

But that nuanced argument could prove radioactive among an Internet community already skeptical of government efforts in the wake of protests over the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in January, and the CISPA data-sharing bill last month. And even if startups or hobbyist projects are exempted if they stay below the user threshold, it’s hardly clear how open-source or free software projects such as Linphone, KPhone, and Zfone — or Nicholas Merrill’s proposal for a privacy-protective Internet provider — will comply.

The FBI’s CALEA amendments could be particularly troublesome for Zfone. Phil Zimmermann, the creator of PGP who became a privacy icon two decades ago after being threatened with criminal prosecution, announced Zfone in 2005 as a way to protect the privacy of VoIP users. Zfone scrambles the entire conversation from end to end.

“I worry about the government mandating backdoors into these kinds of communications,” says Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has obtained documents from the FBI relating to its proposed expansion of CALEA.

As CNET was the first to report in 2003, representatives of the FBI’s Electronic Surveillance Technology Section in Chantilly, Va., began quietly lobbying the FCC to force broadband providers to provide more-efficient, standardized surveillance facilities. The FCC approved that requirement a year later, sweeping in Internet phone companies that tie into the existing telecommunications system. It was upheld in 2006 by a federal appeals court.

But the FCC never granted the FBI’s request to rewrite CALEA to cover instant messaging and VoIP programs that are not “managed”–meaning peer-to-peer programs like Apple’s Facetime, iChat/AIM, Gmail’s video chat, and Xbox Live’s in-game chat that do not use the public telephone network.

If there is going to be a CALEA rewrite, “industry would like to see any new legislation include some protections against disclosure of any trade secrets or other confidential information that might be shared with law enforcement, so that they are not released, for example, during open court proceedings,” says Roszel Thomsen, a partner at Thomsen and Burke who represents technology companies and is a member of an FBI study group. He suggests that such language would make it “somewhat easier” for both industry and the police to respond to new technologies.

But industry groups aren’t necessarily going to roll over without a fight. TechAmerica, a trade association that includes representatives of HP, eBay, IBM, Qualcomm, and other tech companies on its board of directors, has been lobbying against a CALEA expansion. Such a law would “represent a sea change in government surveillance law, imposing significant compliance costs on both traditional (think local exchange carriers) and nontraditional (think social media) communications companies,” TechAmerica said in e-mail today.

Ross Schulman, public policy and regulatory counsel at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, adds: “New methods of communication should not be subject to a government green light before they can be used.”

– Source: CNet

 

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59 Comments on "FBI asking Internet Companies for Wiretap-Friendly Back Door"

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We should launch all
4 years 3 months ago

MKUltra still exists, just under different modes:

http://www.thehiddenevil.com/

Queens New York
4 years 3 months ago

I definitely smell a diversion here. THEY are ALREADY saving all of our social network info(facebook, twitter, voip, pinger, texts, etc). Now they are making it seem like were going to gi e them the GO AHEAD, oh and we are. This is bullshit, they will not quit feeding Americas ignorance. Aggh

4 years 3 months ago

hey vigilant.. my teacher was telling my class today how they are trying to put microchips as small as a rice grain inside of baby infants I was wondering if you could elaborate on that for us?

Nir
4 years 3 months ago

nothing new here.

even back in the windows 95 days the FBI "asked" microsoft to have a backdoor in their systems so they could sneak on their users.

Faith
4 years 3 months ago

guys it doesnt matter if you "delete" your facebook or deactivate it. everything is stored in a database somewhere. facebook even states they save your information and even the faces in photos

Triple Double Stuffe
4 years 3 months ago

Freedom over safety.

sister soul
4 years 3 months ago

You know I am always amazed at america and some americans when they say they are fighting terrorism for their "freedom" and "way of life" what freedom pray tell? How can you call this kind of control freak behaviour freedom. Wow!

Fleurdamour
4 years 3 months ago

Those are code words for 'capitalism' and 'American interests.' So is 'democracy' when we talk about protecting it in the Middle East.

Dragonpacker123
4 years 3 months ago

hey VC please make a review about the avenger, I'm sure it has a lot of symbolism and the plot is kinda suspicious.

CatX3
4 years 3 months ago

I have a cousin that works for the FBI , and I believe them the CIA , the government , etc. can already access all of this information without permission…Please , correct me if I'm wrong though.

Fleurdamour
4 years 3 months ago
4 years 3 months ago

this is some scary stuff. big brother has arrived

Ashtyn
4 years 3 months ago
Well, we all knew this was coming. It's sad to know that most Americans are too naive to believe that this is actually going to happen. People I've shared this with believe this to be another bluff, C'MON AMERICA! The reason why people above the law mess with us so badly is because they know they can. They're fully aware of how ignorant and easily manipulated the majority of Americans are. Seriously, go to any other country and they have more knowledge about our REAL history than American's do. It's just pathetic. I was hoping that we'd have at least… Read more »
tech support
4 years 3 months ago
hey VC and friends, check this out… Scientific Ghost City To Test Future Technology http://uk.news.yahoo.com/scientific-ghost-city-te… Quote: A "world first" $1bn scientific ghost city will be built in New Mexico to test the latest next-generation technology. Researchers will use the facility in Lea County, near Hobbs, to look at everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets. The town will be modelled on the real city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, complete with roads, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. No one will live there, although they could as houses will include… Read more »
Mel~Ski
4 years 3 months ago

I wonder why I can't find this on US yahoo news? And I wonder why they chose Rock Hill…I'm from SC I hope they don't get any more wise ideas. ugh!

Fleurdamour
4 years 3 months ago

We can't spend a dime to build decent housing for homeless children, but we can do this.

Eraserhead
4 years 3 months ago
Like ObviousEye mentioned, this is most likely a sham debate to subsequently legalize practices, which have been already in use, and try to gain more and more acceptance among the "I have nothing to hide"-majority and to make the controlled "anonymous" opposition think, it could take measures against these laws. To me it seems very naive to disbelieve that EVERY SINGLE mouse click & character, I mean any action ever transmitted, has been indefinitely stored since the beginning of the internet, perhaps even phone calls are automatically recorded. I don't need to mention high-zoom satellite photos taken globally by the… Read more »
4 years 3 months ago
Cisco backdoor still open IBM researcher at Black Hat says opening for Feds exposes us "The "backdoors" that Cisco and other networking companies implement in their routers and switches for lawful intercept are front and center again at this week's Black Hat security conference. A few years ago, they were cause celebre in some VoIP wiretapping arguments and court rulings. This time, an IBM researcher told Black Hat conference attendees that these openings can still expose information about us to hackers and allow them to "watch" our Internet activity. Backdoors are implemented in routers and switches so law enforcement officials… Read more »
4 years 3 months ago

U.S. gov't wiretapping laws and your network

https://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/012307-us-

"Activists have long grumbled about the privacy implications of the legal "backdoors" that networking companies like Cisco build into their equipment–functions that let law enforcement quietly track the Internet activities of criminal suspects. Now an IBM researcher has revealed a more serious problem with those backdoors: They don't have particularly strong locks, and consumers are at risk."

http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/03/hackers-networki

tj
4 years 3 months ago
This is just one more thing they want to do in order to control us. I have this thought that something big is going to happen and I believe they the goverment is preparaing us for it sooner than most think or believe. With london at the games coming up I read on david ickes site that the goverment believes that there may possible be drones carrying bio-weapons on them and use them at the big games.I also saw somewhere in the news watching that the terrorist would probably strike overseas in another country not the usa??????? How do they… Read more »
The Illusionary Beas
4 years 3 months ago
That's disgusting. And all over a few couple of buildings the assholes blew up themselves! They're fucking Nazis, plain and simple. They're leftovers from the era Prescott Bush's failed coup and Project Paperclip and I for one am sick of seeing this mechanical dive towards total oblivion. I wonder whether people will awaken fast enough at this point to survive and whether some complete deus ex machina is on the way. I sure hope so. These bastards need to be brought to justice- if such a thing even exists. It's understandable why the population is the way it is about… Read more »
Sword
4 years 3 months ago
Once the Tribes were conquered it was one big strip mining operation. They strip mined the land now they are going to strip mine our brains and bodies and the last cash in our wallets. Lets be frank here USA is a giant ponzi scheme. Please cut the how great capitalism is jingoism. Humans survived this long on co-operitism not hyper individuality driven by cash. Thats just a product of the cheap energy era. Its ending. Human characteristics are the worst of all kindom animalia. We are supposed to have the rational mind. Humans choose easy and convenient. Not going… Read more »
ObviousEye
4 years 3 months ago

I think a lot of things like this are made just to get us all riled up. I suspect the FBI, CIA, NSA, what ever department you can think of has access to just about anything they want and it all goes back to one main sector. I may be wrong, I just feel like the FBI probably already have a dominant roll on social networking. Making articles like this to make us believe they don't.

Sword
4 years 3 months ago

I agree. True freedom requires discipline. And with that said USA sure is not free thats for sure. LMAO!

Kat
4 years 3 months ago

How do we protest this abuse of authority without being classified an enemy of the state? It's ridiculous, our government is acting like the kid that no one wants to play with because he cheats and changes the rules so only he can win!! Its frustrating especially when everyone around me seems to have their head up their own behind and thinks I'm crazy….

Mrs. Jones
4 years 3 months ago

I know how you feel, many people I try to explain or open their eyes just think im nuts. : I just don't understand how one couldnt see all this hidden agenda and blantant blasphemy ! You have to be completely under "their" thumb, or in denial. It makes me sad because I'm the crazy one, but reality it's the opposite. My husband can't stand listening to my rants haha but he finally 'fessed up and told me it's because he doesn't like thinking about the fact that that is the reality, and it quite frankly scares him.

mike
4 years 3 months ago

I'm terrified that there are people who really believe this silliness.

anonymousC
4 years 3 months ago
Mrs Jones, to paraphrase " I know exactly how you feel!" Many are terrified by "reality", and to use this apt quote, "…there is nothing to fear but fear itself.." that my dear Mrs. Jones is the crux of it all. The lesson of life has always involved knowing oneself so you can let go the crippling aspect of fear and go forward into come what may, fearlessly. For those we love, be patient with them, remember that sometimes our whole purpose might be to help those who cannot quite get past fear. We have been given a great gift,… Read more »
S1000
4 years 3 months ago

Let privacy of persons be respected.

Mrs. Jones
4 years 3 months ago
If the FBI wants this done badly enough, more than likely it will happen. In my opinion the FBI should astleast give us the option to be able to have our accounts deleted and information wiped out of the company/websites databases. I've been thinking about that for sometime time, actually taking the time the go through my many accounts online and slowly removing & creating dummy information, or deleting all together, if it's an option. I actually "deactivated" my Facebook today, haha apparently I have to send an email to have it actually deleted with no reactivation. Its all very… Read more »
09jf09djf
4 years 3 months ago

I haven't had facebook in years. I don't comment on youtube or anything like that. I never post ANY pictures of myself or where i'm at online. I'm really quiet. Go on tumblr and see how everyone describes what they like, their sexual orientation, pictures, etc. on a blog with no privacy settings even. I heard human traffickers also use social networks to capture people. Be careful online.

Yorkcity777
4 years 3 months ago

…One nation, under G(old) O(il) D(rugs), indivisible, with fema camps, and slavery for all. #NWO

mike
4 years 3 months ago

I don't get why the NWO would want to put us in camps – your logic doesn't make sense. Why bother at all? If these people already have "secret control" of everything, then why bother doing anything more? What's in it for them? Are there any college graduates on this site?

DaveWWC
4 years 3 months ago
Well you can't figure out why the NWO would want to put you and me in camps?? Maybe because the NWO left out the word DEATH on purpose. You know you can't spook the herd it's hell trying to get them back in line after ya scare them. Especially with a word such as that. Anyways, I used to be a video game junkie and last year a certain game manufacturer, one of the biggest EA introduced a waiver you had to accept if you were to enjoy their product online. It was hockey, though I'm sure they put it… Read more »
HTE
4 years 3 months ago

NWO must be based on Communism and Nazism.

Bittersweet
4 years 3 months ago

The NWO is based on satanism. Simple.

Sword
4 years 3 months ago
Once the Tribes were conquered it was one big strip mining operation. They strip mined the land now they are going to strip mine our brains and bodies and the last cash in our wallets. Lets be frank here USA is a giant ponzi scheme. Please cut the how great capitalism is jingoism. Humans survived this long on co-operitism not hyper individuality driven by cash. Thats just a product of the cheap energy era. Its ending. Human characteristics are the worst of all kindom animalia. We are supposed to have the rational mind. Humans choose easy and convenient. Not going… Read more »
4 years 3 months ago
I have a strong belief that it takes us all to make a change for good or bad yes you can say the new security laws are keeping us safe and maybe to some degree they are but if you look at the near misses you will notice a pattern.They said we needed to increase airport security to the point they have people who fondle you and machines that show your nether regions to some perfect stranger and yet we had the underwear bomber on a Christmas flight a couple of years ago what about the men who were going… Read more »
STARTPAGE
4 years 3 months ago

(don't) google 'Startpage'… go to startpage and type in startpage instead ;0

As well as an encrypted search engine startpage is bringing out a fully encrypted email service by the end of the year according to katherine albrecht (author of spychips)

Rebecca
4 years 3 months ago

thanks for the tip

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