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The FBI and Others Want To Fine Companies that Do Not Put in Backdoors.

by on01 May 2013 1341 times
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The FBI and a few other groups would like to put a law in place which would allow them to fine companies that refuse to hand over information regardless of the reasons for not choosing to do so. This plan is part of an increasing effort to force companies to share user information with the government. On the surface the idea looks pretty straight forward. Law Enforcement and other Government Agencies want to be able to track down people that might be using the internet and internet communication services to commit crimes. Sounds legit right?

The problem is that if you look at what the government wants to do it extends beyond what they would need to investigate crimes and even to prevent them (as they often claim). These new attempts at increasing surveillance capabilities on the internet also tend to gloss over the fact that there are already methods to gain access to data if needed. The problem (from the Law Enforcement side) is that warrants and court orders take time to get and often require the request to be very limited and specific in what they collect. The laws also limit the type of surveillance and also how long they can monitor live communication. These laws are intended to protect the average citizen from illegal monitoring and illegal searches as outlined by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

Law Enforcement does not like this as they feel it hinders their ability to work. They would rather invade your privacy than work within the established guidelines of the law. This is why bills like CISPA were so popular. All they had to do was ask for the information and they would be able to get it. Fortunately for us the official CISPA bill was voted down by the Senate, but that does not mean that it will not be back in other forms. The FBI and other agencies want to require open back doors for monitoring internet communication and they want to be able to fine anyone that does not comply.

These “back doors” would allow the FBI and others access into ISP and corporate systems without the need to alert anyone that they are coming in. Right now most companies already track traffic going over their network and include systems that are capable of deep packet inspection. For the most part these are intended as protective measures more than for any type of spying, but these same systems can be used to spy on a user with little effort. This is what they want unlimited access to. It is not enough for them to be able to legally install spyware on a computer (with the right warrant) and track everything happening on that system; they want it all from end to end and never mind the ethical gray area that this is in.

We have seen the FBI stretch the limits of the law in several high-profile copyright cases. One of the most notable is Megaupload and Kim Dotcom. Here the FBI (urged by the MPAA and RIAA) actually broke New Zealand laws by asking for surveillance of a New Zealand citizen (Kim Dotcom), executing an illegal search warrant and then taking evidence back to the US without judicial review (which was required). Both the surveillance and the warrant were fishing expeditions they did not have anything so they felt a board warrant and seizure would get them something they could use in court. This is the same type of mentality that they will bring to any law that gives them open access to ISPs, Websites, Social Networks or any other online entity. They have shown they cannot be trusted with too much access to information.

In simple terms the FBI already has the tools they need to do their job and investigate crimes even when the internet is used for communication. Instead of using the tools they have they want to remove the legal limitations to when and how they can use them and that we simply cannot allow.

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Last modified on 01 May 2013
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