You're Viewing the Archives
Return to IVN's Frontpage

Internet Wiretapping Laws an Intrusion on Civil Rights, Opponents Say

by Beck Alleman, published
Credit: New York Times

Internet Wiretapping

Recently, a government task force created legislation that would force big name Internet giants such as Facebook and Google to allow the government to access their sites for wiretapping purposes. If they fail to comply, they will be fined tens of thousands of dollars, giving them little say in the matter.

This move comes as a result of what they call the "going dark" effect. That is, technology is shutting the FBI and other federal entities out of potentially incriminating information because one of the most common forms of correspondence of most criminals is, at present, relatively secure. This legislation would change that.

"In the ever-changing world of modern communications technologies … the FBI and other government agencies are facing a potentially widening gap between our legal authority to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to actually intercept those communications," said Valerie Caproni, of the FBI's general counsel, in a statement to the House Judiciary Committee

In short, this wiretapping move, according to Caproni, comes out of necessity, not some scheme to intercept all Internet communications. To them, it is simple: crime is going online, and so must they.

This is quite a bold move on the part of the government, and is certainly one that would need to be considered fully before enacting it, lest unintended results arise.

For example, TechFreedom, a nonprofit technology policy group, issued a statement indicating some of the problems with this idea, namely that it is far too broad, resulting in stepping on the toes of just about every Internet user.

"Consumer and business trust in the confidentiality of Internet communications is essential to online commerce, privacy and free speech," TechFreedom said in a statement concerning the legislation. "Changes to products and services that could undermine users’ trust in the privacy and security of their communications should be avoided."

One of the most important precautions the government would have to make is one to prevent this wiretapping measure from making the Internet an even less safe place to be. This means, according to TechFreedom, there should be no new rules or laws regarding the actual use of the Internet and that the measures taken to wiretap are accessible only to the government so they don't fall into the wrong hands. Lastly, it is important for people to not feel afraid about being spied on by the government every time they use the Internet.

Many believe the wiretapping is not even necessary and see it as an intrusion on civil rights.

"The FBI has offered few concrete examples and no significant numbers of situations where it has been stymied by communications technology like encryption," an Electronic Frontier Foundation representative said in an interview. "To the contrary, with the growth of digital communications, the FBI has an unprecedented level of access to our communications and personal data -- access which it regularly uses."

Action is already being taken by the government. According to an article by Global Research, the Obama administration has expressed interest in adopting at least some form of this plan, so some form of progress on it is to be expected. The only unknown factor now is just how far the government will go.

About the Author