Do you think a government should be allowed to snoop on your Facebook, Twitter and Skype activity? Well if not, you’d better kick up a stink now because according to The New York Times, Obama and his administration are seeking to expand their “role” in eavesdropping on internet users including e-mails, social networking sites and Blackberries.
The NYT reports:
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
The Government claims the measures are necessary “in light of increased communications on the Internet between members of terrorist groups and organized crime gangs.” What’s perhaps equally astounding about this story is that apart from the NYT, not only has it not received much mainstream media coverage but there’s been little reaction from civil liberties groups. Former intelligence officer and police detective Mike Snopes observed in The Examiner:
It’s amazing how during the Bush administration, the limited actions taken to monitor terrorists’ communications met with fury from civil liberties groups and members of the news media. Now that a liberal-left president sits in the Oval Office, these same people are silent regarding increased surveillance of U.S. citizens by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
The cybersecurity plan proposes some other pretty draconian measures that could mean that tough encryption is a thing of the past. It proposes that:
- Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
- Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
- Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.
This raises many issues. As the NYT points out, how can this be applied to freeware that’s developed for free by volunteers? That’s not to mention the security backdoors that such a plan would inevitably expose software to. For anyone with a concern for keeping the internet free and open and an interest in security freeware in general, the US Government’s latest cybersecurity plan sounds like bad news.