Date: 2004-03-13 20:23:00
Tags: usa, advocacy
I read karl's post this morning and was suitably frightened at the proposal the FBI has put forth. For a long time, law enforcement has had the ability to wiretap conventional phone lines with an appropriate court order (more recently, the requirement for a court order has been dismissed by provisions in the PATRIOT act). In 1994, the CALEA act was passed which gives law enforcement the authority to eavesdrop on all types of communication, but not necessarily the ability. Now, the FBI wants to take CALEA to the next level and implement that ability. They have been somewhat left out of the explosion in electronic communications services, and now they're fighting back.

The FBI's proposal for easy electronic surveillance can be interpreted to extend to all types of electronic communications. This could include voice-over-IP, instant messaging, email, online games, IRC, and any other service where you might expect a reasonable assurance of privacy. They would mandate that all electronic communications offer an eavesdropping back door for use by law enforcement, with a time limit of 15 months for existing systems to comply.

I can hardly imagine a world where new electronic communications applications must be approved by some government bureau before they can be deployed. And the potential for misuse of systems which have poorly implemented back doors is mindboggling. To strain the analogy, most systems can't get their front door security working perfectly, which doesn't bode well for the back door. I spent about 10 years of my professional career building systems that enable people to communicate (and expect to do more in the future). I believe it's a critically important facet of society that people be able to communicate freely and privately. This sort of bureaucratic bottleneck would severely impair the development of new communications services, not to mention threaten the reasonable assurance of privacy that I consider a basic human right.

Practical considerations mean I have neither the time nor the energy available to fight this sort of totalitarianism myself, so I support, through donations, organizations which are equipped to stand up for the rights of the people. I made a donation today to EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) in support of this position. I believe they will take a reasonable stance against this new proposal.

While I was writing this post, I got an IM from my friend Sam who also just started his Politics page, which is about his own advocacy efforts. It is indeed a good time for advocacy.

In other news, I also joined AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) today. I support their advocacy efforts in ensuring that general aviation is available to everybody. And I renewed my ARRL membership, they do good work in ensuring that radio communications is available to everybody.
[info]cdy : EPIC
Thanks for the reminder. I sent them another donation, too. :-)
Cool re AOPA. :>
I've been an AOPA member for a couple years, I guess. They provide a lot of good services to pilots and I like their magazine a lot as well as most of their lobbying. Additionally, their web site has approach plates, airport diagrams, etc.

But they're really the NRA or PETA of airplane, always afraid to give an inch.

I support them most of the time.
That's great, Greg. When I was a kid in school, they used to tell us how people in the USSR had no privacy. Now they tell us that we can no longer be permitted to have privacy in the US... for our own protection... terrorism concerns, you understand.

In a time when T.H.E.Y. can turn on your Onstar and listen to your conversations in your car without your knowledge, every laptop sold is surveillance-ready.

Greg Hewgill <>