FBI seeks to expand wiretap law to social networks, IM, webmail

The FBI has drafted a proposal for a law that would require social networking, webmail and instant messaging sites, as well as voice-over-IP providers, to make their sites wiretap-ready, and it is asking those companies not to oppose the measure, CNET reports.

The bureau's general counsel has proposed amending a 1994 law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. The amendment would require social media, IM, and online mail sites and VOIP providers to alter their sites' code to make it easier for the government to wiretap people suspected of criminal activities. Currently the law applies only to telecommunications providers and broadband networks.

The FBI is not seeking the active support of the websites' owners, but it is asking them not to actively oppose the proposal. FBI Director Robert Mueller had planned a trip to the West Coast, since postponed, to meet with top executives and attorneys from prominent Internet companies. Mueller's trip will be part of the bureau's move to "minimize impacts" of the FBI's draft bill, CNET reports, quoting a participant in the talks.

CNET reports that tech companies are unlikely to remain silent on the FBI's proposal to expand the wiretap law. Apple is already lobbying on the proposal, and Microsoft says its lobbyists are keeping a close eye on the topic, which is "an area of ongoing interest to us."

About the Author

Donald White is an assistant managing editor with 1105 Government Information Group.


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