Oldspeak: Big Brother is a nosey fucker ain’t he? He wanna know ALL YA BUSINESS. :-| Americans are unwittingly being relieved of more and more of their civil liberties and rights to privacy in the name of national security. ‘In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a succession of laws that has made it far easier for law enforcement and security officials to spy on online and other communications with or without warrants…Now they want the additional benefit of the internet being wiretap-friendly”
From Troy Wolverton @ The San Hose Mercury News:
Privacy advocates on Monday sharply criticized a U.S. government plan to make it easier for police and spy agencies to eavesdrop on Internet communications.
National security and U.S. law enforcement officials are preparing to submit a bill to Congress that would require all Internet companies to be able to tap into any online communications that they enable, The New York Times reported Monday. While government officials quoted by the Times said the legislation is needed because much communication among criminals and terrorists has moved online, privacy advocates called the proposal dangerous and excessive.
Google, Facebook, Skype and other local Internet companies contacted by the Mercury News declined to comment on the proposal. But Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a group that promotes the rights and interests of online consumers, said it “would give away the digital keys to our consumer data kingdom.”
“This is too much to give away to any government, Republican or Democrat,” he said. “This proposal should be fought by civil libertarians, consumers and business leaders.”
The bill, which hasn’t yet been released, would require companies that provide encrypted communications to be able to break into those coded signals upon receiving a legal wiretapping order, according to the Times. It would also require companies that provide peer-to-peer software, such as Skype, to be able to spy on phone calls and instant messages made over that software, which probably would require fundamental changes in the way those applications work.
Government officials quoted by the Times argued that the proposal would merely preserve their current powers, rather than grant new ones. Law enforcement officials have long had the ability to record or listen in on traditional phone calls.
But increasingly, telephone calls and other communications are encrypted or made outside the traditional phone networks using technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol and peer-to-peer networking. Because peer-to-peer phone calls don’t pass through a central server or communications hub, they aren’t easy to tap midstream. And encryption can be difficult to break if officials don’t have a digital key to unlock it.
The Obama administration’s concerns are similar to those raised recently by India and Dubai, which have threatened to block Research In Motion’s BlackBerry service if not given access to the encrypted messages sent through RIM’s servers.
But privacy advocates challenged the claim that U.S. officials are losing their policing abilities. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a succession of laws that has made it far easier for law enforcement and security officials to spy on online and other communications with or without warrants, noted Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an online civil liberties group. The government has also amassed massive databases of electronic information that it can use in investigations, he said.
“This view that law enforcement is being left in the dark by technology is a myth,” Rotenberg said. Government officials have a “lot of ways” to investigate crimes and terrorist threats.
“Now they want the additional benefit of the network being wiretap-friendly,” he added. “We’re saying that simply goes too far.”
Encryption and peer-to-peer networking have become widely used on the Internet for everyday communications, advocates say. Online purchases, financial transactions and even e-mail messages are routinely encrypted these days. And some new laws setting privacy standards have encouraged the wide use of encryption for storing and transmitting health information and other electronic or online records.
“For (government officials) at this point to try and set back the clock would be a mistake,” said Phil Zimmerman, who created the popular encryption program PGP and who helped spearhead the successful fight against a similar law enforcement effort in the 1990s. “We would all oppose it and we would probably prevail.”
Zimmerman and other advocates argue that providing a “back door” into online communications to allow government officials to spy on them would make those communications fundamentally insecure, providing a point of vulnerability that hackers could exploit. In Greece in 2005, hackers used just such a back door to eavesdrop on phone calls made by the prime minister and other officials.
“This is a bad idea,” Rotenberg said. “Not just bad in the sense that it opens the door to Big Brother surveillance, but it “… puts Internet users and companies at greater risk of identity theft, corporate espionage and surreptitious spying.”