ISP Wiretap Day Arrives

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May 14th signals the deadline for Internet service providers to be compliant with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

If your broadband provider didn’t have the federally-approved wiretapping gear turned on before this morning, it’s probably running now. Providers of Internet access and VoIP calling services must be in compliance with CALEA as of today.

The deadline arrived along with observances from privacy advocates, who do not share the FBI’s or DoJ’s enthusiasm for CALEA’s entry into the Internet. Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing commented on the extension of wiretap law into data:

This has been the law for voice switches for over a decade, where it represents a potential holiday for dirty cops who don’t have warrants use these back-doors (and criminals and corporate espionageists who want to eavesdrop on sensitive calls). Now it’s part of our data infrastructure as well. Nice one, America.

Kevin Poulsen at Wired’s Threat Level blog demonstrated a similar lack of enthusiasm about CALEA’s drop-dead date:

It’s worth noting that the new requirements don’t alter the legal standards for law enforcement to win court orders for internet wiretaps. Fans of CALEA expansion argue that it therefore won’t increase the number of Americans under surveillance.

That’s wrong, of course. Making surveillance easier and faster gives law enforcement agencies of all stripes more reason to eschew old-fashioned police work in favor of spying.

In an ideal world, surveillance would be seen as a beneficent entity, watching for events that disrupt societal norms. The world is far from ideal, and while arguments against CALEA may be dismissed in favor of law enforcement concerns, the potential for abuse does exist.

Let’s hope the public’s desire for a safe society isn’t fulfilled by a controlled one where non-mainstream thought is checked into silence through fear.

ISP Wiretap Day Arrives
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