FBI To Internet Biggies: Pretty Please Give Us An Easy Way To Spy On Your Users

The FBI really wants to know why you won’t just make it your Facebook friend or add it to your Google+ circle. That’s why the bureau has reportedly been asking those companies, along with Microsoft, Yahoo and others, to not impede its proposal to require back doors that would give the feds easy access for snooping.

CNET reports that the FBI is annoyed at how much more difficult it is to wiretap suspects now that they use the Internet instead of going to phone booths in dark alleys.

Thus, the bureau has proposed a law — an amendment to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) — that CNET says would require “social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.”

The requirement would only apply to sites and services with user bases larger than a certain threshold.

Apple is reportedly already lobbying against the proposed expansion of CALEA, while Microsoft lobbyists say it is “an area of ongoing interest to us.”

It’s not just the FBI that is interesting in entering through the back door. CNET reports that the FCC is mulling over a rule change that would expand CALEA to cover any product that allows video or voice chat over the Internet. This means anything from Skype to Xbox Live.

The FBI explains is position thusly:

[There are] significant challenges posed to the FBI in the accomplishment of our diverse mission. These include those that result from the advent of rapidly changing technology. A growing gap exists between the statutory authority of law enforcement to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to intercept those communications. The FBI believes that if this gap continues to grow, there is a very real risk of the government ‘going dark,’ resulting in an increased risk to national security and public safety.

The bureau stresses that court orders would still be needed for wiretaps. Having built-in back doors would just make it easier to perform the surveillance after the court order is in hand.

That assurance is unlikely to ease concerns of those who are already concerned about their online privacy rights.

The White House has not yet passed the FBI’s proposal on to lawmakers for consideration.

FBI: We need wiretap-ready Web sites — now [CNET]

Thanks to Harper for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Power Imbalance says:

    Don’t worry comrad if you’re not doing anything illegal you’ll have nothing to worry about.


    • ARP says:

      Troll, but I’ll bite. Bush did this too. Obama is continuing what Bush was doing. Remember the whole wiretapping scandal. It doesn’t make it any better, but don’t pretend the other side doesn’t do it.

      Also, I guess, http://forward.com/ is a big old communist/nazi supporter.

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        Yep, Obama and big sister also seem to enjoy watching episodes of “I want it on a silver platter detectives”. To politicians the ends justify means. Their power and thus pay must be maintained at all costs even if it’s your property.

        • jnl says:

          How do you know Obama has anything to do with it? The FBi just wants to snoop PERIOD!

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Because the administration has supported such legislation in the past, including an extension of PATRIOT.

      • Bill610 says:

        I don’t see where “Power Imbalance” suggested that the “other side” doesn’t do it. But let’s be honest: there is no “other side”. When it comes to acquiring and keeping power, the Democrats and Republicans are just two finger puppets on the same hand. And we get what we get because voters are gullible enough, and have short enough memories, to keep saying “I don’t like what Index is doing, so I’m gonna vote for Pinkie!”

  2. gman863 says:

    If the FBI wants to invade my “back door”, I expect, at the very least, candy, flowers and a tube of K-Y jelly.

  3. Blueskylaw says:

    “to not impede its proposal to require back doors that would give the feds easy access for snooping.”

    So the FBI likes going in through the back door?

  4. dolemite says:

    “The bureau stresses that court orders would still be needed for wiretaps.” Weren’t they just rubber stamping these or ignoring them altogether anyhow?

  5. Hi_Hello says:

    sweet, I can easily ‘wiretaps’ people I stalk :D

    • dolemite says:

      I’m wondering…when hackers take advantage of these easily accessed “back doors” to steal my identity or bank account info, who do I sue? FBI? Google? No one?

      • Hi_Hello says:

        everyone :D especial if the ‘hacker’ was an employee at one of the company.

        There back door are security holes, and company with security are liable..i thought…with the credit card incident.

        it would be fun to read about people using the back door to get into the FBI’s system :D
        Or inserting fake data into it.

  6. IphtashuFitz says:

    > CNET reports that the FCC is mulling over a rule change that would expand CALEA to cover any product that allows video or voice chat over the Internet.

    So how would this apply to entirely open-source products that you could download the source code to on sites like Slashdot?

    I didn’t think so…

    • amuro98 says:

      Well, first off, the FBI only claims it will only be going after “the big guys” but there’s no definition of how “big” a company would need to be to be required to do this. Second, so they get the source code, big deal? What if my social whatsit uses 256bit private keys to encrypt everything on the server? So the FBI gets a bunch of jibber-jabber they can’t realistically decipher. Sure, the FBI could go get a warrant and try to force each user to turn over his key but I’d think any hint at stupidity on the government’s part would result in everyone changing their password to:
      cat /dev/rnd | passkey

      Then delete the passkey file, or destroy the entire hard drive if you want to be uber-duper-super sure.

      There you go. Even if they waterboard you, they’ll never get the key because you honestly don’t know it.

  7. xanadustc says:

    Of course the major problem is that with it easier to wiretap, the hackers will be more easily able to access personal data because they are far better at computers than any government agent (unless like Frank Abignale Jr they pull a hacker out of prison and hand him a computer).

    • Hartwig says:

      This is the real concern here. Once you provide a mechanism to access data that was once protected that mechanism is now vulnerable. I will take my personal information being safe from hackers over the slight possibility it will be affected by one of the people they are wiretapping.

  8. GoldVRod says:

    OKay – I’m unfamiliar with workings of Facebook et al but if it was my site I would add a 1×1 transparent png requested from my own server to the profile in a private area accessible to friends only. If I spot a request from an unknown IP – boom… someone is snooping.

    Change social profile to Terrorwits02…999 and discard old profile. Repeat and rinse.

    As a failsafe I would also add a text file called ‘fbilookherez.txt’ that said ‘Go wai joo fbi tw4ts’.

    That should do the trick.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      I already added a feature on my own computer to block any attempt to fetch a 1×1 image and substitute it with one of my own that is transparent.

  9. Lyn Torden says:

    Back when every phone had a pair of wires all to itself, and the voice signal was not multiplexed, tapping a select phone was easy. That just isn’t the way things are done anymore. Now a particular phone call has to be extracted from a bit stream containing scrambled (in the encoding sense, not the encryption sense), multiplexed, compressed signals for potentially over a million phone calls that can be carried over one fiber optic cable, which would shut down if you physically tap the optics. The cost of networks has gone up. But the cost of tapping has gone up way more. It’s more practical to only tap at the end points.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      The FBI demands the ability to tap ‘at any point’ in the system without asking or even notifying the carrier. This became an issue for us when they demanded a backdoor into a our proprietary version of CDMA. We explained it was nearly impossible, they said they didn’t care how many tens of millions of dollars it would cost us to devise something that could, we had to comply with CALEA. Eventually, they understood how difficult it was.

  10. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    My company had to deal with the FBI and CALEA previously. The FBI has backdoors in everything made in the USA. There is no privacy left except for the fact they have to sort through untold mountains of data every minute. Every phone call, landline, cellular, satellite and every fax, every email, everything you print in color, every photo you take, anything you put on the internet, everything, everything, everything.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      It might have been the FBI that cried first about not being able to tap fiber optics which basically has to be tapped or accessed on the equipment end unlike a wire landline which could literally be tapped on the wire.

      • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

        They can tap fiber optics, it’s just messier. Look up the “Silver Bells” program. Remember when we started the war in Iraq that all the undersea cables in the area simultaneously broke?

  11. partyone says:

    It isn’t rape if the FBI yells suprise. I don’t use facebook anyway or most social networking sites.

  12. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    **grumble** *frown* **grumble** fascist pigs **growl**


  13. duncanblackthorne says:

    Screw the FBI.

  14. oldwiz65 says:

    hahaha “court orders would still be needed” hahahah…. Like the FBI cares about such silly things; they do whatever they d**n well please and don’t bother to ask the courts for help. Silly idea.

  15. MCerberus says:

    FBI: this search and seizure isn’t unreasonable to *us* so we have full reign to do it.

  16. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I still like them because they helped me with my book. But if they’re going to fuck me, I hope they’ll buy me dinner first.

  17. AngryK9 says:

    Why bother? Federal agencies simply tap into anything they want to tap into whenever they feel the urge already.

  18. u1itn0w2day says:

    If you could have your intelligence and criminal investigations handed to you on silver platter bypassing many laws and constitutional values wouidn’t you? The ends justify the means for all the paranoid scaredy cats out there.

  19. XTREME TOW says:

    The smart criminals (and quite a few not-so-smart) will just use a different version of encryption than the ones the FBI can already crack.
    The rest of us will get our doors kicked in at 0530 because we used the term “BOM” to refer to “Bill Of Materials” when chatting about the swing set we purchased for the kids.

  20. DanKelley98 says:

    What country do we live in?

  21. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’m pretty sure they tap into everything already..they just want permission to do it with impunity so there’s no legal accountability.

  22. JonBoy470 says:

    I’m waiting for a big company with deep pockets (Hmm, Apple, Google, Facebook come to mind) to grow some bolas and tell the FBI to pound sand. The fines could just be a cost of doing business…

  23. iolo says:

    Why would it matter if it was a left or a right thing. Please don’t think if one side is right the other side is wrong, Both sides can be wrong and almost always are.

  24. MrEvil says:

    I’d just like the FBI to know I like Cabernet Sauvignon to go with my Medium Rare steak. Because I like to be wined and dined before I get fucked.