Telecommunications Policy

FBI Pushes Legislation to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Web

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The FBI wants web developers to build fed-friendly backdoors in all their applications in order to make domestic spying easier, reports CNET's Declan McCullagh:

In meetings with industry representatives, the White House, and U.S. senators, senior FBI officials argue the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities, CNET has learned.

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," a person who has reviewed the FBI's draft legislation told CNET. The requirements apply only if a threshold of a certain number of users is exceeded, according to a second person briefed on it.

The FBI's proposal would amend a 1994 law, called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, that currently applies only to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks.

The FBI has been campaigning for a while to make the Internet more friendly to federal eavesdroppers, warning of what it calls the "Going Dark" problem, which refers to the increasing difficulty the agency is having intercepting and surveilling Web-based communications. Some folks, I think it's safe to say, would not refer to this as a problem. 

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  1. What, do you want them to push legislation to make it harder for them to spy on the bad guys and everyone else? These are government employees, after all.

  2. you get the privilege of adding that extra coding

    You have to be all balls and no brains to make a statement like that.

    1. It might have been sarcasm from someone

      1. I read it that way.

  3. If I ever need to go low key, I’m just going to mail shit, discretely.

    1. How will you control the odour?

      1. Dryer sheets and Febreze.

        1. Cayenne pepper fucks with the dog’s noses, but that would likely be called “assault on a law-enforcement officer”, in which case YOUR dog would be shot.

          1. I hate pets, so that won’t happen. I think cops know when the dog is around cayenne pepper, and use this as an excuse to search- although they would say the dog signaled drugs, not pepper.

            1. True, but it would be worth it to just make up a package with no illegal contents, ans soak that fucker with pepper.

              1. I’ve always wondered why smugglers don’t harrass the police more… if I were them I’d have my mules spray every vehicle waiting for a checkpoint with ‘eau du drugs’ and render the dogs ineffective.

                1. spray every vehicle waiting for a checkpoint with ‘eau du drugs’

                  Eau du Drugs would presumably use drugs in its manufacture, so that plan eats into your profits, without necessarily increasing profitability.

                  1. There are plenty of drug byproducts to spare.

                    I would like to hear about the results of kids keeping their school decoyed to set off “false alarms” when the dogs come through. What would happen if there seemed to be drugs everywhere, but no evidence was found (and the kid was smart enough to keep quiet)?

                    1. Cool. Send the cops on wild goose chases. That would be fun to watch.

  4. I don’t see how such a requirement could possibly stand up to a constitutional challenge. Just the First Amendment issues of “I’ll code my software how I want, especially to make a protest against wiretapping” should be the start.

    1. Ruby and Java are commercial speech.

      Not sure what the courts have said about Python and Forth.

    2. Easily. When you build a hotel, the doors and entryways must be a certain width to accomodate wheel chairs etc.

      The same logic can now be applied to software engineering.

      And the cat’s out of the bag with the telecom providers.

      Even if the software industry successfully fights this, the government will be back again, and again and again and again and again.

      Because the government can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever.

      1. I’d bet $3.50 you’re right, Paul. The Mighty State would shit a brick if someone wrote uncrackable, snoop-proof code.

        Is that even possible? I’m nowhere near code-monkey level of knowledge.

  5. This is the same kind of burden on technology as data retention and discovery laws.

    The idea of the obligation to make it easy for police to snoop around is bullshit. It is an invasion on the use of private property.

    Law enforcement should have the ability to obtain warrants for investigating information that exists. But they do not have the right to information being in existence, or being useful to them.

    1. I agree that this action would be stupid and fail at its intended purposes while having horrid (presumably) unintended consequences.

      But as for constitutionality? It’s exercise of the commerce clause (and a rare legitimate one).

      1. That is if you take commerce clause precedent to be legitimate.

      2. It’s exercise of the commerce clause (and a rare legitimate one).

        If you ignore the fact that the commerce clause was intended to allow the federal government to keep states from erecting trade barriers between themselves, then yeah, absolutely 100% legitimate.

      3. How exactly is it exercise of the commerce clause?

        1. the newfangled, congress-has-unlimited-powers interpretation, Nate.

          1. You didn’t get the “Fuck you, that’s why” memo, Nate? It’s all the rage in Congress.

    2. The idea of the obligation to make it easy for police to snoop around is bullshit. It is an invasion on the use of private property.

      Corporations aren’t people, man.

      1. Absolutely right.

        Unions and not for profits are people.

  6. I think all developers should create backdoors for the feds where upon entry it melts every cpu on there system.

    1. Whose system? Both possibilities are good ideas.

    2. What I can’t figure out is microsoft (and apple and linux and…) already have these back doors that hackers exploit every day. The solution to me seems obvious: the FBI needs to hire the hackers that “compromise the system and allow the attacker to take control”.

      1. No, there’s no way they do. If such a back door were ever, ever found out about outside the super-secret cabal within the company that made it, it would in an instant destroy the company. I mean, if people found out tomorrow that Windows had a back door, and it had been discovered, MS stock would plummet faster than a Canadian hang glider.

        For that reason alone there’s no way there’s a back door.

        1. You’ve sold me!

        2. There are back doors. They just didn’t realize that they put them in there.

        3. I wanna be your Backdoor Man…

          Oh, shit! Did I say that out loud??! Shit, shit, shit….

  7. Hey i see you made a secure web application there…

    Here let me put a giant government hole in it that would allow easy access to any scriptkiddy who wants to steal credit card numbers from your customers.

    1. I want THAT program on my computer. It seems very much worth buying.

    2. It’s a government hole, JC, a government hole. There’ll be a law making it illegal for anyone else to use it.

      Jeebus it’s like these H&R kiddies don’t even pay attention.

  8. On the one hand this kind of stuff scares me. On the other.. look, if you do something on the web, it’s not private. Someone is listening. It’s only a matter of time before better analysis tools remove what little anonymity we have(thanks to the sheer volume of traffic).

    If the FBI isn’t listening, your ISP or search/e-mail provider is. They’re going to sell that data off to someone else… maybe your employer, the government, your insurance company, or your future girlfriend.

    If you want it done privately, use encryption. Or turn-off your smartphone and do it in person(while hoping a security camera doesn’t take your picture).

    If you think your HnR comments aren’t coming back to haunt you in 30 years… well.. welcome to the future.

    1. There probably won’t BE a future.

    2. On the other.. look, if you do something on the web, it’s not private.

      That rather depends, doesn’t it.

      I mean, if I set up an invitation-only, encrypted, secured, etc. website, how is that not as private as my home, which is also invitation only, has locked doors, etc.?

      This is the feds bootstrapping the total lack of privacy. “You have to leave backdoors that mean nothing you do is private on the internet because everything on the internet isn’t private because it all has these backdoors. . . .”

  9. I thought CISPA was fixing this problem – the NSA is monitoring every single bit and byte of information flowing around out there, CISPA allows them to share it with the FBI. Wiretaps are so 1990, now everything everywhere everytime get recorded.

  10. It wouldn’t be so threatening if there weren’t so many laws booby-trapping our lives.

  11. Anonymizers don’t fucking work either. They are not worth the trouble. The government knows everything about that shit and can track down any schmuck.

    Encryption on your personal systems can work, until the court makes you unencrypt it.

    Making your hard drive disappear is not illegal, yet, except when obstruction of justice applies.

    If they are determined enough, they will have tiny bits of hard drives analyzed- though it is usually not worth it with current capabilities. The only way to be sure is to get rid of the hard drive.

    1. Making your hard drive disappear is not illegal, yet, except when obstruction of justice applies.

      Yes it is.

      Now, in fairness, you did add “except when obstruction of justice…”

      But that’s pretty vague. If you’ve been charged with a crime, sure, destroying your harddrive could be seen as such. But if you get a voicemail from some yahoo at the DHS asking you when you’d next be home so they can swing by and ask you a couple of questions, that’s enough to justify “an ongoing investigation”. You destroy anything in your house, that’s a SarBox violation. Done and done.

    2. Please explain how the government can find out anything about me when I’m running my VPN through Hong Kong. I also doubt they can do anything with Tor.

      1. Because Hong Kong is a foreign country so the NSA is allowed to analyze the shit out of it – doing things like correlating when you checked your bank statement with when you left the nasty comment on HnR?

        Tor has already been shown to have weaknesses similar to the above.

        You can still be anonymous online, but it takes a lot of diligence on your part.

      2. Because Hong Kong is a foreign country so the NSA is allowed to analyze the shit out of it – doing things like correlating when you checked your bank statement with when you left the nasty comment on HnR?

        Tor has already been shown to have weaknesses similar to the above.

        You can still be anonymous online, but it takes a lot of diligence on your part.

        1. The only thing they could know is that I was sending encrypted traffic to Hong Kong or Boston or wherever. Even the NSA can’t crack modern commercial encryption.

          1. They can make you crack. Or throw your ass in prison for contempt.

            1. “make you crack”

              Cut out the middle man in the dealer network hierarchy?

      3. Especially if there is an ongoing investigation, and they are already keeping logs of traffic connected with something specific. Tons of shit already gets marked in the private sector, companies collect data so they can find ways to block shit so their clients services don’t get fucked with.

  12. So yet again, Democrats are working to trample on our rights.

    Oh, sure, Republicans are at it, too, but this is happening under Team Blue’s watch. NO excuse for that.

    1. What I love is dems purported love of right to privacy…except when it involves anything other than a woman’s vagina.

      1. And the gay thing, Nate.

        1. What I love is dems purported love of right to privacy…except when it involves anything other than a woman’s vagina, or a man’s man-gina.

          FTFY.

          1. What about buh-jinas? They’re different, you know.

  13. …the dramatic shift in communication from the telephone system to the Internet has made it far more difficult for agents to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities…

    Because everyone knows, the telephone was invented to help the FBI solve crime.

    1. If you know of a better reason that J. Edgar Hoover traveled back in time to invent the telephone, I’d like to hear it.

  14. I like this comment from the CNET link:

    http://news.cnet.com/8618-1009…..ncol;tback

    1. Give Me Liberty or Give You Death

      There’s a t-shirt I would buy.

      1. A bumpersticker with that slogan would immediately win you a spot on the SPLC domestic-terrorist hate-group shitlist.

  15. This makes a whole lot of sense dud.e WOw.

    http://www.Privacy-Dudes.tk

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