Spying without a warrant in America is a crime, a violation of privacy rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. Yet, the government is asking technology companies to commit this crime or be fined for insubordination.
The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration is "on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people."
According to the New York Times:
The Obama administration, resolving years of internal debate, is on the verge of backing a Federal Bureau of Investigation plan for a sweeping overhaul of surveillance laws that would make it easier to wiretap people who communicate using the Internet rather than by traditional phone services, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.
The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, has argued that the bureau’s ability to carry out court-approved eavesdropping on suspects is “going dark” as communications technology evolves, and since 2010 has pushed for a legal mandate requiring companies like Facebook and Google to build into their instant-messaging and other such systems a capacity to comply with wiretap orders. That proposal, however, bogged down amid concerns by other agencies, like the Commerce Department, about quashing Silicon Valley innovation.
While the F.B.I.’s original proposal would have required Internet communications services to each build in a wiretapping capacity, the revised one, which must now be reviewed by the White House, focuses on fining companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. The difference, officials say, means that start-ups with a small number of users would have fewer worries about wiretapping issues unless the companies became popular enough to come to the Justice Department’s attention.
Internet communications companies could face fines "starting at $25,000 a day", according to The Washington Post. These mandates and fines amount to regulations that many fear will inhibit innovation and force businesses out of America.
"I think the F.B.I.’s proposal would render Internet communications less secure and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves," Gregory T. Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology told the New York Times. "It would also mean that innovators who want to avoid new and expensive mandates will take their innovations abroad and develop them there, where there aren’t the same mandates."
The timing of this announcement to expand wiretap laws is not surprising as it closely follows the privacy-invading legislation CISPA making its way through Congress. Not only would this further legalize the invasion of privacy of Americans, it would punish companies who refuse to cooperate.
Additionally, it will essentially outlaw innovation of an anonymous or private communication network on the Internet, which many would view as a valuable service.
In fact, according to a poll by The Washington Post, a whopping 94% said companies should not be forced to share online communications with the government.
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