Posted on 7th May 2012 @ 10:52 AM
In a world where communications technology is always growing and evolving, many law enforcement agencies at every level of government have been looking for ways to monitor communications. They believe that by monitoring communications, they will be able to find criminals and terrorists before the crime has been committed instead of scrambling to catch up afterwards. The Federal Bureau of Investigations is one of these agencies, and they may have a new way to monitor what everyone is saying at any given moment. Recently, it’s been discovered that the FBI has been in touch with several different communications companies. The FBI has been asking these companies to create digital “backdoors” to give access to the FBI so that they will have the capacity to monitor all digital communications.
The FBI’s plan is actually an amendment to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA. This act would require digital communications programs like Facebook and Web email programs like Gmail and Yahoo! to build digital backdoors that would be accessible to the FBI. If the FNI were to access these backdoors, they would have access to every communication transaction that is processes through these programs.
According to representatives of the FBI, they do not feel that they are overstepping their boundaries in any way, shape, or form. Rather, the FBI believes that they are instead using their already existing powers in a more effective way.
Several of the companies that have been asked to participate have approached the whole situation very cautiously. The biggest influence on their decision to participate in the matter is the incredible public backlash that was faced by SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and CISPA, pieces of legislation that tried to attempted to limit file sharing and were called internet censorship by many.
This proposal comes as a direct response to the issue of the FBI’s methods being outrun by modern consumer technology. The FBI attempts to investigate various communications, but they are often left in the dust by consumer technology. The FBI already has methods in place that can be used to monitor cell phone and land line phone communications, but it is more complicated for them to monitor online chats, communications, and emails. The FBI has warned that without the assistance of these companies, investigating major crimes may prove to be more difficult.
In spite of the worries, the FBI says that there would still be a warrant or court order required before the FBI could begin probing in any particular case.
But, as several experts point out, a requirement to include a back door could be onerous and damaging.
"New methods of communication should not be subject to a government green light before they can be used," says Ross Schulman, of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
Only services above a certain level of users would be required to comply, but as this amount may be arbitrary, the complaint stands. Security and privacy advocates like the EFF have voiced similar concerns.
As the proposal and related matters have been progressing for several years, the issue is not likely to be resolved quickly. But when it enters the legislative process, there will almost certainly be a great amount of debate on the issue.