With the recent passing of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) through the U.S. House of Representatives, reports have emerged suggesting the FBI wants an expansion to CALEA –the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act – and has already drafted amendments to the current legislation to provide them the leeway they so desire.
CALEA, the product of 1994 legislation, requires telecommunications carriers to build their networks in such a way that legal, lawful surveillance of what's going on over these networks can be monitored.
In 2005, adjustments were made to include broadband internet and connected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers as well.
Just six years later, the FBI wants more authority built into CALEA, including things like social networking applications, messaging applications, Web-based e-mail services and non-connected VoIP providers like Skype (News - Alert) and Google Voice, to fall under their purview.
An interesting step suggests that the FBI's authority under CALEA would only activate in the event that the total number of subscribers of a technology platform reached a certain level.
The standard battle lines appear to be drawn over this one, with privacy rights advocates and technology providers firmly against CALEA expansion, especially in light of recent moves to beef up protections for intellectual property and copyright issues.
Some have suggested these measures are little more than corporate welfare at the expense of technology providers who must engineer their networks specifically to accommodate surveillance, with which the privacy rights advocates generally have a problem.
Some have even suggested augmenting CALEA would prove unnecessary in light of the upcoming Cybersecurity Act of 2012, requiring private sector firms to share information about cyber threats in a bid to protect the Internet itself and similar network communications.
Such major legislative moves always come with long periods of debate and amendment, so seeing how this all boils down any time soon is unlikely. But still, it certainly bears watching, as it will likely affect the way many people actually use the Internet and similar communications methods.
Edited by Braden Becker