FBI wants social networks and IM services to be wiretap-friendly

Worried that technology advances will leave its agents incapable of conducting surveillance of online communications of potential criminals, the FBI is quietly lobbying top Internet companies not to oppose the broadening of scope of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

Passed in 1994, the wiretapping law originally required telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment to build surveillance capabilities in their equipment, facilities and services.

In 2004, the law was amended to force ISPs and providers of interconnected VoIP services to do the same, and now the FBI is aiming to oblige providers of web-based email, IM and other “unmanaged” P2P communication services, as well as the companies behind the major social networking sites, to make their products wiretap-friendly.

CNET reports that FBI representatives have been meeting with White House officials and US senators to push its agenda, and that FBI Director Robert Mueller is set to meet with representatives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other Internet giants with the same goal in mind.

Privacy-minded individuals and groups, of course, oppose the idea for obvious reasons, but tech companies seem to be more worried about compliance costs and potential leakage of trade secrets and other confidential information that might be shared with law enforcement agencies.

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