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F*ck privacy and security: FCC law allows 'backdoor access' to broadband internet

The FBI will dictate that internet service providers develop “wiretap-friendly design.”

In the name of “security,” your government is about to force your internet access providers to make their networks (and your computer) to be vulnerable to hackers. On Friday, the FCC, on the orders from the Justice Department, has mandated that providers of voice-over-ip and broadband internet services (DSL, cable modem, satellite) make their channels prepared to receive an FBI wiretap (PDF here). The DOJ position is that broadband has “substantially replaced” the local telephone exchange, and thus it’s important for Uncle Same to get its grubby hands on transmissions when it deems it necessary. The new rule also requires airlines to build similar backdoor access into the phone and data networks on planes.

With the Patriot Act now renewed across the board (with its fourth amendment steamrolling intact), the government has the legal ability to invade your privacy on the Net. Even worse, as incompetent as our government is, it’s likely network security is going to be quickly breached by spoofers, hackers and techno-terrorists in no time, completely defeating the original misguided purpose of the law. (Electronic Freedom Foundation):

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a release announcing its new rule expanding the reach of the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). The ruling is a reinterpretation of the scope of CALEA and will force Internet broadband providers and certain voice-over-IP (VoIP) providers to build backdoors into their networks that make it easier for law enforcement to wiretap them. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has argued against this expansion of CALEA in several rounds of comments to the FCC on its proposed rule.

CALEA, a law passed in the early 1990s, mandated that all telephone providers build tappability into their networks, but expressly ruled out information services like broadband. Under the new ruling from the FCC, this tappability now extends to Internet broadband providers as well.

Practically, what this means is that the government will be asking broadband providers – as well as companies that manufacture devices used for broadband communications – to build insecure backdoors into their networks, imperiling the privacy and security of citizens on the Internet. It also hobbles technical innovation by forcing companies involved in broadband to redesign their products to meet government requirements.

“Expanding CALEA to the Internet is contrary to the statute and is a fundamentally flawed public policy,” said Kurt Opsahl, EFF staff attorney. “This misguided tech mandate endangers the privacy of innocent people, stifles innovation and risks the functionality of the Internet as a forum for free and open expression.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding