Obama can has interwebz wiretap?

By Richi Jennings. September 27, 2010.

Obama (Pete Souza for whitehouse.gov)
President Obama's White House is seeks sweeping new powers to wiretap any internet communications, such as as already exist for phone taps. This would include encrypted peer-to-peer protocols, such as Skype. Naturally, the reason they want it is to do with terrorism, 'cos these folks don't use the phone system so much these days. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers jump up and down in horror and rage.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention kids' food...

Dean Takahashi beats out an explanation:

Federal ... authorities want to be able to wiretap services such as BlackBerry ... Facebook, and ... Skype. ... [They] will seek to get lawmakers to ... expand their powers to monitor computer communications that are currently havens for secret communication.
If a law were to pass without ensuring civil liberty and security, it would be another pointless erosion of our fundamental freedoms ... forcing companies to move overseas. ... The feds better think it through.

Larry Dignan is equivocally indignant:

The Obama administration is prodding Congress to require all Internet communications ... to be technically able to comply with a wiretap order. ... Lawmakers want the Internet to act like the telephone system. That move could hurt innovation and privacy.
I could go either way. ... A lot of technical details have to be worked out. It’s also unclear how many investigations have been hampered by peer-to-peer and social networking technologies. In any case, developers would theoretically have to build in intercept capabilities.

But Larry Seltzer has no such qualms:

This morning's news ... is even more outrageous than I thought at first. ... Security technologist Bruce Schneier ... wasn't happy about [it] either. ... As Schneier points out, the new regulations could require services like Skype to completely rearchitect their protocols and systems. This would be enormously expensive and disruptive. ... And the whole point of it would be to make the systems less secure.
Even if you think you can trust the government not to abuse this access—and I don't think you can—backdoors ... may become available to other parties, including criminals. ... It's worth getting alarmed. ... If we don't respect that right ... [to] a reasonable expectation of privacy ... then we have become, as Schneier says, "the same as Iran, as Saudi Arabia."

Rafe Colburn picks up that angle and runs with it:

Remember how people made fun of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for banning Blackberries?
What really irritates me about this is that the Obama administration is supposed to be more technically savvy and pragmatic than its predecessors. ... So why push for this legislation? ... [It's] an obviously bad idea and wandering around in the forest of systems theory doesn’t change that.

Brian Barrett fumes, "The government is ill-equipped, technologically and morally":

Put aside, for a moment, the gross privacy concerns here, the questionable constitutionality, and this country's unfortunate recent history of warrantless wiretaps. ... Despite all the lawsuits this will ultimately invite, the biggest hurdle is going to be a technical one.
Retrofitting VoIP and peer-to-peer services with backdoors would be  ... incredibly costly and unconscionably dangerous, intentionally creating vulnerabilities that hackers could—and will—exploit. ... [And] the US government has no authority over companies that don't have US offices. So ... the criminal element will have plenty of unregulated international options.

Meanwhile, John Gruber dares to invoke the inventor of the lightning rod:

Let’s hope this goes nowhere. I’ll let Ben Franklin speak for me: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

And Finally...

Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itbw@richij.com.

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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