FCC expands wiretapping to VoIP

The Federal Communications Commission ruled Friday that providers of interconnected VoIP services must provide wiretapping capabilities for law enforcement, citing its authority under the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act.

According to the new FCC rule, providers of VoIP services which interconnect to the public switched telephone network (PSTN), as well as broadband Internet providers, will have 18 months to build in wiretapping capabilities.

But critics contend the FCC doesn’t have the authority under the law to make this ruling, that it will slow technological innovation, and that it will also put citizens’ privacy and security at risk.

Practically, what this means is that the government will be asking broadband providers — as well as companies that manufacture devices used for broadband communications — to build insecure backdoors into their networks, imperiling the privacy and security of citizens on the Internet. It also hobbles technical innovation by forcing companies involved in broadband to redesign their products to meet government requirements.

“Expanding to the Internet is contrary to the statute and is a fundamentally flawed public policy,” said Kurt Opsahl, EFF staff attorney. “This misguided tech mandate endangers the privacy of innocent people, stifles innovation and risks the functionality of the Internet as a forum for free and open expression.” — Electronic Frontier Foundation

Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy called for Congress to expand the CALEA law to explicitly cover broadband Internet service and VoIP services. “I continue to believe that the Commission, the law enforcement community, and the public would benefit greatly from additional Congressional guidance in this area,” she said in a press release.

Currently the law only covers landline and cellular telephone service. Dialup Internet service is covered as it passes over landline telephone lines.