It has been revealed that the FBI is requesting that major internet corporations like Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, who opposed SOPA when it was in deliberation earlier this year not oppose their attempt to require these companies and many more to build backdoors into their communications systems to allow wiretaps.
While the FBI has been trying to keep this quiet, some people that are part of the tech industry have blown the whistle on the proceedings.
The FBI plans to implement this new type of internet wiretapping by modifying an existing law that was put into place in 1994, called the “Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act”, or CALEA for short. As of this moment, that law only applies to telephone providers, like AT&T or Verizon. the FBI, however, wants to expand this law to also apply to any sort of online messaging, like Skype or Facebook, so that when they get a wiretap warrant they can tap these communication vectors as well.
Thankfully, not all tech companies are simply letting this happen. According to documents that were filed with Congress a few weeks ago, Apple is currently lobbying on the topic. When Microsoft was asked about the subject, they said that it was “an area of ongoing interest”. Google, Facebook, and Yahoo decided to not make any comment about the situation at all.
Of course, the main problem that tech companies have with a law like this expansion to CALEA isn’t exactly the same as the everyday citizen’s concerns. Instead of being worried about privacy, these companies are worried about how much it would cost to add these backdoors into existing software, or even to put them into new software that they are currently developing.
The other problem that these corporations have with an expansion is the threats it could pose to industry secrets, as they might be laid bare in a court proceeding.
Again, the government is attempting to strip away layers of privacy that many of us enjoy on the internet, and the tech industry is fighting back, but for the wrong reasons. I imagine we will see this pattern continue for the foreseeable future, sadly. Hopefully one day, we can come to a reasonable agreement on this whole issue.