FBI Seeks Better Social Network Wire Tapping

Monday, February 21, 2011



Investigations by law enforcement officials are being stymied by the rapid change in communications platforms which have exceeded their ability to effectively execute search warrants in a timely manner.

The advent of new media like social networks, new communications channels like IM, IRC, VoIP, and new devices like smartphones, have rendered current laws governing wire tapping outdated, and officials want lawmakers to narrow the gap by addressing the issue with new legislation.

Much of the problem is in the inability of new communications platforms to collect and store the kind of data law enforcement needs to pursue indictments.

Even if the technological ability to capture the data is available, current laws do not require the service providers to store the information and provide it to law enforcement swiftly.

"There are a lot of things that keep me up at night. One thing is the privacy of people who are communicating on the Internet. But I also get kept up by worrying that we've got criminals running around that we can't arrest and can't prosecute because we can't actually execute a wiretap order. And that criminal may be a massive drug dealer. They may be an arms trafficker. They may be a child pornographer or a child molester," FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni stated to the House Judiciary subcommittee.

Aside from efforts to pursue child predators and scammers, law enforcement believes that counter-terrorism efforts are also being undermined by the inability to effectively mine communications data in new media and technologies.

Critics of expanded surveillance capabilities worry that new legislation could hamper technological development, and put the United states at a competitive disadvantage.

"The person in the dorm room building the next great app may never build it if they have to comply with a government imposed mandate. They might not even think about building the next great application. And if they did they might have to re-architect it in a way that would be less efficient, less useful to users than it would have been if they had been able to build according to what they wanted to do," said Greg Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Other critics point out that backdoors for law enforcement surveillance can be utilized by attackers to compromise the security of communications systems, producing another level of security risk.

"Switches designed to give police wiretapping capabilities were hacked in Greece, leading to the unlawful wiretapping of 100 senior government officials for 10 months, and a system was breached in Italy, allowing unlawful wiretaps of 6,000 Italians,” said Susan Landau of Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Source:  http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/02/18/44996988.html

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