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Surveillance State Democracy

As the FBI seeks full access to all forms of Internet communication, it is not voters who need to be convinced

CNET‘s excellent technology reporter, Declan McCullagh, reports on ongoing efforts by the Obama administration to force the Internet industry to provide the U.S. Government with “backdoor” access to all forms of Internet communication:(Image: CNET)

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. . . . That included a scheduled trip this month to the West Coast — which was subsequently postponed — to meet with Internet companies’ CEOs and top lawyers. . . .

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.

As for the substance of this policy, I wrote about this back in September, 2010, when it first revealed that the Obama administration was preparing legislation to mandate that “all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype” — be designed to ensure government surveillance access. This isn’t about expanding the scope of the government’s legal surveillance powers — numerous legislative changes since 2001 have already accomplished that quite nicely — but is about ensuring the government’s physical ability to intrude into all forms of Internet communication.

What was most amazing to me back when I first wrote about these Obama administration efforts was that a mere six weeks earlier, a major controversy had erupted when Saudi Arabia and the UAE both announced a ban on BlackBerries on the ground that they were physically unable to monitor the communications conducted on those devices. Since Blackberry communication data are sent directly to servers in Canada and the company which operates Blackberry — Research in Motion — refused to turn the data over to those governments, “authorities [in those two tyrannies] decided to ban Blackberry services rather than continue to allow an uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information within their borders.” As I wrote at the time: “that’s the core mindset of the Omnipotent Surveillance State: above all else, what is strictly prohibited is the ability of citizens to communicate in private; we can’t have any ‘uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information’.”

Read the full article at Salon.com

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