The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.

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.



  1. bobbo, the pragmatic existentia says:

    This issue or close variants has been here before. Pros and Con’s.

    What is the appropriate “scope” of privacy that we citizens should all expect and even demand?

    Inside my house I think we all agree. Phone calls to me have pros and cons. I don’t want criminal conspiracies to be aided and abetted because average citizens want the false security of anonymity. What is the legitimate interest in having what you say over the phone to be held “secret?” This was abundantly clear in the early years where operators were used as switches to make connections. THERE WAS NO PRIVACY AT ALL with operators and common lines and bleed thrus.

    Just because the tech made privacy possible, I don’t know what that should be an expectation now. Same with the inter tubes.

    I’ll even say if I’m doing something wrong—I should be stopped. I only argue for mental health counseling why I shouldn’t be doing xyz rather than jail time.

    So, as in so many issues, its not the initial issue, but rather what will be down down that slippery slope.

    In the end: its just a rule. Smart people treat all these exposures for being just that. The rule really is just to pick off the easy fruit.

    • Uncle Dave,

      First off the bat, I wanted to express how enlightening I found the discussion following your blog post titled “Is Your Website ‘Wiretap Ready’ for the FBI?”, posted today, to have been.

      Something that really resonated with me is an argument posed by “bobbo, the pragmatic existentia” at 9:37 am today. Back before the standard telephone (and light years away from the Internet and all the social media outlets), operators would connect people through switches, which essentially eliminated all privacy within the context of the phone conversation. As technology has advanced and we are now able to share so much more about ourselves publicly, society wants to recant and demand privacy for the details they might not have willingly shared with another (maybe an operator?) on the phone line. The issue at hand is this– how much privacy is too much and how much privacy should the government allow at safety’s sake?

      There is an obvious imaginary line at question here and until that is defined, legislation like the FBI’s wiretap-ready, SOPA and now CISPA can continuously eat away at American’s inalienable rights to privacy and personal security.

      I really wanted to share with you a video about the FBI’s push for wiretap access to social media sites that I think you will find relevant and supplemental to your coverage. I hope you enjoy it, as I included the link below.

      “FBI Pushes for Wiretap Access to Social Media Sites”

      http://newsy.com/videos/fbi-pushes-for-wiretap-access-to-social-media-sites

      The clip does a great job of concisely sourcing and compiling news reports to emphasize the scope and context the content being reported on. Newsy synthesizes and analyzes news into neutral comprehensive video clips showing a variety of opinions on the story.

      I hope you will embed this video into your blog and maybe in the future, we could swap blogroll links and widgets.

      Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to working with you in the future,

      Lyndsey Garza
      Community for Newsy
      Twitter: @newsyvideos
      http://facebook.com/newsyvideos

    • Glenn E. says:

      I take issue with the notion that in the old days, when Operators made the phone connections, people couldn’t keep secrets. Back then, it was mainly wealthy people who had their own phones, for the longest time. And still, bad things like the Wall Street crash of the 1920s, happened. And organized crime, during Prohibition era, managed to thrive, probably via telephone. Law enforcement simply wasn’t interested in whatever Operator gossip, there was out there. None of it was likely admissible in any court. And Operators probably didn’t want to become targets for listening in.

  2. sargasso_c says:

    This will only encourage better encryption.

    • msbpodcast says:

      We don’t need better encryption.

      The PTB©™®* are trying to shake down the web sites because our encryption is already too good for them.

      And they are admitting that savvy web and net users, hackers, professional criminal enterprises, large corporations, governments etc. can easily work around the proposed encryption rules. (Just encrypt your conversation packets before they get encrypted again by your VoIP provider.)

      They want to catch the schmucks who are stupid but are suddenly saving money by using the latest tech toys. (Skype is free so its cheaper that keeping a land line.)

      Essentially, its like using PGP** on the fly.

      Depending on your level of paranoia, you can even encrypt your messages as background noise in a low-quality music video using steganography on every N packets. (Slow but essentially undetectable and undecryptable. [Unbreakable and it can even be done by complete script kiddies.)

      This is a complete fail for anybody but the unsophisticated. (Sorry bobbo and tead… :-))

      Anything I need secreted, I already keep encrypted, triple backed-up, including one periodic off-site, one in the cloud, one redundant copy (on a different machine on my LAN and the working copy in local storage.

      I’m not paranoid, I just don’t trust anything to work properly all the time.

      *) PTB©™® == Powers That Be

      **) PGP == Pretty Good Privacy (public key encryption)

  3. ECA says:

    I love this.
    They have been trying to figure out HOW they can monitor the web for YEARS..
    They are even making a MEGA computer to HELP..

    Is this acknowledgment that its a HARD JOB??

    They tried to do it After 911..They found that 1 days scanning for certain words, filled a ROOM with enough data, that it would take upto 5 years to MANUALLY go thru it.

    I said long ago about data encryption and the internet. ITS A HARD HARD HARD job.
    With all the sources of DATA on the net..all the games, chats, Video, Audio, Pictures, Internet formats,…,…,…,…,… the Gathering of the data ALONE is ridiculous, they trying to decompress, descramble, decompile, compare, Language convert, decipher…
    Time and the Internet has made the Enigma machine obsolete..

    • The Monster's Lawyer says:

      Good Job ECA, your command of text capitalizations has improved greatly. I can finally read your posts without getting seasick.

  4. Uncle Patso says:

    sargasso_c says:

    “This will only encourage better encryption.”

    Good!

  5. Holdfast says:

    I remember some years back that a lot of people used to stick various words after their email or posting. The actual mail or posting itself was noting to do with any of the words and they indicated nothing.

    I was going to add an example here then I decided that putting such things as “bomb” or “secret” or “code” or even “escape” might worry someone. I decided to not even put the word “aircraft” in it.

  6. MattG says:

    We should start a pool on how many tenths of a second it will take for these back doors to be discovered and exploited. I don’t think we need greater units of time in the pool.

  7. deowll says:

    Stupid is as stupid does and this is a stupid idea. If they have legitimate need they can get the information now. Building in a back door is an invitation to abuse and is one more security hole.

  8. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Junior Culture Critic says:

    Ok, raise your hands……how many here think this item was planted to make sheep think these back doors aren’t already in place? Right in the cpu?

    You can encrypt and think you are anonymous, -or- you can post openly and know that you are not.

    Illusions vs Reality.

    Whats your cup of tea?

    You know, PeainhisPod==you keep associating me with Alfie, and I’m going to have to post a very rude entry. Although, to be fair, he’s been rational lately. Must be someone else, you know, one of his other personalities.

  9. GregAllen says:

    Can website put up a “Terms of Agreement” clause that requires law enforcement to have a warrent before they surf the site?

    The Consitution protects my private papers. Shouldn’t this include my blog?

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Junior Culture Critic says:

      Its a choice as to what kind of society you want.

      I think the computer on your desk and under your arm is your private info.

      But its hard to claim the protection of a journalist for your publishing activities and then want to claim it is private at the same time?

      Seems to me that “inside your house” is a sensible rule for the extent of privacy rights, then under your arm. I don’t see why anyone’s car should be private. Why should a terrorist conspiracy be able to email each other back and forth? Why should anyone be able to violate the law with a claim of anonymity?? What does the individual or society gain from that?

      Would be fun to compare the parallel universes where the only difference would be that one rule?

      Who would advocate that the harm, whatever it is, is worth the privacy right?

      • dadeo says:

        Why should a terrorist conspiracy be able to email each other back and forth?
        Why should anyone be able to violate the law with a claim of anonymity??
        What does the individual or society gain from that?

        If a judge believes there is a terrorist conspiracy afoot then warrants should be issued to investigate the alleged terrorists at which point they (law enforcement) can figure the best legal way to gather info/evidence as they always have. They seem to do very well at rounding up and convicting felons if you look at our prison populations and use that as a yardstick. What if the suspected terrorism wasn’t a plot but a political discussion or a drama production or video game production that just sounded like a plot? This back door will be abused by law enforcement and hackers alike and this potential for abuse alone steers me away from it. Add that real Americans still like freedom and liberty and should be willing to sacrifice a bit of safety to keep those intact. I thought, bobbo, you were a libertarian principled progressive? Next you’ll be telling me that if I have nothing to hide I have nothing to worry about..or this is for the kids.

  10. Glenn E. says:

    Wouldn’t or shouldn’t such compliant websites state in their “Privacy Statements” that you no longer have any privacy there, where the US government is concerned. Or will they just “forget” to mention that little fact. Because they’re either not required by law to mention it. Or they’re not allowed by law to mention it. I feel that ALL such “wiretap ready” websites, should bare a seal or symbol that depicts the FBI’s monitoring capacity. I’m sure some of the creative minds at Dvorak.org can come up with one. But you can be sure the social media websites will argue that it kills their business to have a “big brother” shield on their home page. So perhaps what is needed is another one of those special HTML tags that cause a green flag to indicate that a website is NOT wiretap compliant. And those that are, simply can’t use it. And if they do, the EFF will sue their nuts off.

  11. Glenn E. says:

    I can’t help thinking this news announcement is little more than smoke and mirrors. As if the Feds aren’t already tapped into social media sites. They probably helped create them.

    Then there’s the fact that all ISPs are already wiretappable, as well as all phone carriers. It’s a requirement, or they don’t get an FCC license to operate. So this smoke screen news, may be designed to make most users think or forget that their carrier is the front line of the Feds monitoring force. The only complication is that websites employing SSL protection, tend to screw that up, when people communicate to any social media website that’s so protected. So in that event, I can see why a backdoor becomes necessary.

    But doesn’t this automatically defeat the whole purpose of SSL? Because what only the Feds can take advantage of now. Soon any hacker will take advantage of very soon. Bugs and flaws in website code, are enough of a problem that can be exploited by any skilled hacker (or the Chinars). Building deliberate weaknesses into websites, is even worse. And it’s exactly what the Feds wanted to do with the Banking Transaction system. So they could monitor, the bad guys’ activity. But also it would have severely weaken the integrity of world wide Banking Transactions. Potentially leaving it open to anyone, even the Feds, to raid it for whatever purpose they choose to justify. Like paying for hookers in Brazil.

  12. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Junior Culture Critic says:

    dadeo being uncharacteristically participatory says:
    5/7/2012 at 10:40 am

    If a judge believes there is a terrorist conspiracy afoot then warrants should be issued to investigate the alleged terrorists at which point they (law enforcement) can figure the best legal way to gather info/evidence as they always have. /// Correct. There is almost “no bar at all” for the government to wire tap to their hearts content. ……. ?????? So, its not access to this info that is a pragmatic difference?

    They seem to do very well at rounding up and convicting felons if you look at our prison populations and use that as a yardstick. /// 80% of prison population is low grade drug violations. Actually a measure of how ineffective our law enforcement is.

    What if the suspected terrorism wasn’t a plot but a political discussion or a drama production or video game production that just sounded like a plot? /// Exactly. What difference would it make to this drama group if they get tapped pursuant to a court order or pursuant to SOP?

    This back door will be abused by law enforcement and hackers alike and this potential for abuse alone steers me away from it. /// Ah, Potential for Abuse. Yes, I agree with this==more for Glenn E’s excellent review: these backdoors will be used by those other than the police. While the issue of Privacy Rights, Police Action, and criminal activities cannot be separated in the technology at play, the philosophical issues are quite distinct. I will surrender to the technology.

    Add that real Americans still like freedom and liberty and should be willing to sacrifice a bit of safety to keep those intact. /// Is that an absolute value/capitulation or one subject to balance and trade offs?

    I thought, bobbo, you were a libertarian principled progressive? /// Ah==thank you. A stretch goal. Always good to be reminded.

    Next you’ll be telling me that if I have nothing to hide I have nothing to worry about..or this is for the kids. /// Yes, that is inherent in the position I took before the tech of Glenn convinced me otherwise. I am surprised our system of banking hasn’t imploded due to computer theft. Amusing to think of a highly advanced society using face to face finanacial transactions because the WWW is so totally compromised by Official Back Doors.

    What a distopia: USA only a few hacks away.

  13. Micromike says:

    This is bullshit. Microsoft admitted in 1996 that Windows 95 had back doors in it for the NSA, FBI and CIA. Why doesn’t anybody remember these things, they are important? All operating systems have back doors in them for government access. It’s too late to lock the barn, the horse is already gone. The government currently admits they are sifting every email, every text, and every cell phone conversation, with robots looking for key words. They even publish the keywords they look for. Big brother is so far up your ass he knows what you had for breakfast.

  14. dadeo says:

    What if the suspected terrorism wasn’t a plot but a political discussion or a drama production or video game production that just sounded like a plot?

    Exactly. What difference would it make to this drama group if they get tapped pursuant to a court order or pursuant to SOP?

    I think you just asked who is best to decide whether to wiretap the Shakespeare on Marx Theater Troupe, a judge or the police.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Junior Culture Critic says:

      Wasn’t it reported that under Bush only one FISA request was denied by a judge? I forget the number requested but lets be conservative and ask:

      “If judges approve 99% of all requests for wiretaps made by police, who is really deciding when to wiretap?”

      I say its the obviously the police. And if I’m wrong==I’m only 1% wrong.

      Its MATH!!!!!!! Just look.

      Should we google any relevant source for the percentage of denied requested court approvals made by police for “anything?”

      The police are powerful. I’m not against having court review–but the review you take comfort in is so shallow, I prefer to deal with reality.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and Junior Culture Critic says:

        I take that back. Of course, denying one request certainly acts to curtail police excess===or in a hypothetical universe: it “could.”

        I apologize.

        • dadeo says:

          Apologize for the math. You are probably correct that there’s a high likelihood that most criminal court judges rubber-stamp police requested warrants – tho I hope 99% is high. But requiring the warrant will make them at least evaluate if it’s worth disturbing a judge to get one This would help to deter police fishing expeditions, keep a few innocents out of jail..stuff like that. Err on the side of liberty whenever possible.

          • bobbo, the true believng evangelical anti-theist and utmost hypocrit says:

            dadeo!!!! THATS MY POINT: 99% or whatever the number is.

            DA’s can get indict a ham sandwich.

            Tell it to the judge.

            What number of denied requests would show “real” judicial oversight” rather than a rubber stamp? >>>>>>>AAACKK!! The logic of my own position is that if judges are approving 99.99999999999999% of all requests, all that means is SERIOUSLY what I did mock: indeed the judges teach and maintain what it is that the police come to know is acceptable or not.

            Well, ha, ha—hoisted on my own …..sarcasm. But I did apologize. The nub was already wearing on my tender parts.

            So then we flip to another constant recurring theme: when it comes to scandals, what is always “right there” is not what was what illegally done, but rather what was legal all the time.

            What are judges, right now, approving routinely? I don’t know, but I’ll bet my next 6-pack that I wouldn’t like it.

            ……..and just when is the new chargless detentions going to be reviewed by the Supremes? They’ll probably approve it, “this” being WAR and all PLUS–it keeps judges away from acting as fascists stooges on a day to day basis. The Supremes only have to do it once thereby relieving the work load of their underlings.

            You know dadeo—I think we mostly agree. We need to find a subject we disagree about?


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