FBI: Web-based Services Hurting Wiretapping Efforts

Web-based e-mail, social-networking and peer-to-peer services are frustrating law enforcement wiretapping efforts, a lawyer for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation told lawmakers Thursday, but she did not offer concrete ideas on how to fix the problem.

President Barack Obama’s administration is debating ways to deal with Web-based services not covered by traditional wiretap laws, including incentives for companies to build in surveillance capabilities, said Valerie Caproni, general counsel at the FBI.

Many Internet services are not covered by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which requires traditional telecom carriers to allow law enforcement agencies real-time access to communications after a court has issued a wiretap order, she told members of a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee

But Caproni told lawmakers she was not asking for expanded CALEA powers. And she stopped short of calling for rules requiring Web-based communication providers to build in so-called back doors allowing law enforcement access to their software, although she said she’s optimistic the U.S. government can find incentives for companies to “have intercept solutions engineered into their systems.”

The FBI is concerned that law enforcement investigations are being compromised by the lack of wiretap capability on some Web-based services and encrypted mobile telephone traffic, Caproni said.

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