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!

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.