Six Lines

Wiretapping the Internet

Posted by Aaron Massey on 27 Sep 2010.

The discussion on how to handle surveillance of communications on the Internet is going to get much bigger the closer we get to ECPA reform. Some of the proposals discussed are dangerous and damaging. Consider the following:

To counter such problems, officials are coalescing around several of the proposal’s likely requirements:

  • Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
  • Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
  • Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.

These requirements would be ineffective at catching bad actors who could simply use other communications services, and they would also impose onerous costs on companies attempting to comply.

Perhaps it is time to recognize that communicating over the Internet is fundamentally different than communication over more traditional telecommunications networks, such as the telephone network. “Wiretapping” just isn’t as technically feasible in this new environment as it was in the past.