The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has become the latest member of a growing group challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) order that all Voice over IP (define) providers must build a standardized wiretap backdoor into their systems.
The order would “dramatically increase” the government’s surveillance powers on the Internet, the ACLU said in a motion recently filed with the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The fledgling Internet phone industry is still experimenting with a variety of technologies . . . yet the government would force companies to engineer wiretapping capabilities into every new product they develop,” ACLU lawyer Gerald J. Waldron said in a statement.
At issue is the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), a 1994 law that allows the FBI to force traditional telephone companies to build its technology in particular ways in order to make wiretapping easier. Congress specifically exempted “information services,” such as the Internet, from the law.
But in August, the FCC, citing national security interests, voted 5-0 to extend CALEA to facilities-based providers of any type of broadband Internet access service.
“Congress didn’t want to extend these trap-door requirements to the Internet and said so clearly,” Waldron said.
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