FBI wants to fine companies not complying with wiretap orders

The FBI is pushing for a new legislation aimed at pressuring tech companies to create ways for law enforcement officials to be able to wiretap popular communication channels that they currently have no access to, reports The Washington Post.

These communication channels include those offered by Facebook, Google, Skype, other social networking and online gaming sites (chats) and, according to the legislation proposal that is currently being prepared, these companies will be forced to make the wiretapping possible and allow it if they don’t want to incur heavy fines.

The legislation would not expand the surveillance authorities of law enforcement officials, but only extend them to the many communications technologies that are currently not covered by the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) – most of which use end-to-end encryption and / or a “peer-to-peer” (P2P) method of communication, and can’t be wiretapped or intercepted with the help of ISPs.

To do it, law enforcement agencies must ask the tech companies directly to give them access and enable the wiretapping, which is something most of them claim not to have means to do. The officers then usually back down, as they don’t want to antagonize the companies.

This new legislation would require companies to build wiretap capabilities into their technologies, something they will likely be reluctant to do because of a series of reasons: the cost, the likely increased insecurity of the company’s servers due “backdoor,” and finally because they don’t want to alienate its own privacy-minded customers.

According to internal sources, the proposed fines for noncompliant firms would likely start at tens of thousands of dollars, then escalate as time goes on, to finally double daily after 90 days have passed since the initial (unanswered) request.

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