One issue that the FCC is discussing in their proceedings is that this new technology may provide a way to make the detection of crimes more difficult. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) is concerned that VoIP “offers increasing opportunities for terrorists, spies and criminals to evade lawful electronic surveillance,” since they could make calls over the Internet, which requires different technology than the FBI currently uses for intercepting regular telephone calls.It is also easier to apply strong encryption to VoIP transmissions. Hence, the FBI is pressing the FCC for new Internet eavesdropping rules. If the FBI’s position prevails, it will have access not only to VoIP calls, but anything else that travels over broadband, including e-mail, instant messaging, and Internet browsing. Civil libertarians are justifiably concerned about privacy and other civil liberty implications.
The FBI already has the ability to seek a court order to conduct surveillance of a broadband user under existing federal wiretapping laws. Vonage, for example, has been served with subpoenas for both call records and call data. Vonage can retrieve the data immediately because the company has it on hand. When the company receives a request for live voice interception, it is easily able to copy the data stream and send it to another location because all the VoIP calls go through a central server. It is unclear why the FBI needs additional access beyond what it can obtain under existing laws, but if it is granted, broadband users will need to understand the capability that law enforcement will have to access all of their cable activity
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