According to government officials and insiders, the Federal government is seeking broad authority and discretion to monitor all Internet communications, including communications on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, instant messaging systems, and even (or hey, perhaps especially) encrypted emails.
Explains FBI spokesman Paul Bresson, “Society has changed the way we communicate, and what we’re looking for is a technology fix to ensure we have the ability to do what we’ve always been able to do.” Bresson went on to explain by saying that “There already is a law – the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act – that was passed in 1994.”
But that law was passed 16 years ago, and in Internet time, that may as well be 160 years ago. Meaning that the Internet as we knew it then is not the same Internet as today. This isn’t your mother’s Internet, and it isn’t 1994’s Internet.
Now, in addition to plain old text email, there is encrypted email, social networking, Skype, instant message, text message, and other forms of peer-to-peer messaging, to name a few.
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“We’re talking about a change in the law that captures other forms of communications that have come along in the past 10 or 15 years that previous laws didn’t cover and couldn’t have covered because they couldn’t have seen them coming,” elaborated Bresson, pointing out that without the expansion of power to monitor these forms of communication, criminals and terrorists will be able to exploit them while law enforcement will be locked out.
Indeed, the EU began contemplating tapping into Skype last year when it was believed that criminals were using it to avoid detection of their communications.
Still, bad guys or no, folks are leary of the government having such broad powers, a concern that the FBI’s Bresson says is unfounded. “It’s not that we’re going to monitor these services – IP communications, P2P communications and so on. But if the situation presents itself, say two terrorists or criminals are using these services to communicate, then law enforcement will go to a judge to get a warrant.”
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