Feds to Telecoms: Stop Upgrading so We Can Wiretap More Easily

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Current law mandates that telecoms allow the government to snoop on you when deemed necessary. But with blazing advances in what telecoms offer, the government is left behind. They want to catch up. Their solution? Tougher law.

A governmental task force made up officials from the Justice and Commerce Departments, FBI, and intelligence community all say it's time to beef up the original 1994 law that mandated fed-friendly backdoors for every telecom. And now that the government wants even greater access, a decade-and-a-half old law isn't quite cutting it for them anymore. The problem? Telecoms are offering more and more sophisticated services (good for us!), which means service interruptions and impaired spying capabilities (bad for the government, and maybe good for terrorists depending on your view of things!) Telecom companies are already pissed—a more powerful wiretap law would slow down things on their end, they say: "The government's answer is ‘don't deploy the new services - wait until the government catches up. But that's not how it works. Too many services develop too quickly, and there are just too many players in this now," explained a frustrated telecom lawyer.

But this goes beyond telecom woes. According to the Times, current service outages have prevented the execution of perfectly legal, court ordered wiretappings. This goes beyond terror hype—the inability to tap a phone makes it harder to bust domestic criminals ranging from drug dealers to white collar fraudsters. But the government is straddling a tricky line here—asking for vast new powers to listen to us in private should come with guarantees that this power won't be misused; an assurance that's lacking. If the White House wants to crack into our GMail and keep telecoms from upgrading, it's going to be a tough sell. [NY Times]