updated 05:00 pm EDT, Fri May 4, 2012
Bureau seeking support for mandatory backdoors
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly meeting with Internet companies to promote upcoming legislation that will require surveillance backdoors for web-based services such as social networks, e-mail, messaging and VoIP. The agency has yet to formally announce the push, however unnamed sources have told Cnet that senior FBI officials are quietly meeting with US senators, Obama administration officials and industry executives in an attempt to muster support.
The proposals, drafted by the FBI general counsel's office, are said to serve as an amendment to the existing Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), extending the requirements for surveillance compatibility beyond the telecommunications industry and onto the Internet.
FBI director Robert Muller is reportedly consulting with companies to find out what provisions can be added to the legislation to "minimize impacts." Some services are expected to be exempted from adding an extra layer of code to enable surveillance, until the user activity reaches a certain threshold.
The agency is said to be struggling to maintain surveillance capabilities as technology progresses, as the Internet has made it easier for criminals and investigation targets to "go dark" and avoid communication interception. The FCC is also said to be considering revisions to CALEA interpretation to include web-based services.
Privacy advocacy organizations and many tech companies are expected to voice opposition to the surveillance backdoor proposals. The Internet security bill CISPA was recently met with resistance over privacy concerns, ahead of a veto threat from the Obama administration, while the SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy bills were indefinitely stalled after activist groups and tech companies organized protests and website blackouts.