Happy wiretapping, officers

Janet Babin May 14, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: You might call today “Wiretapping Day.” It’s the deadline for Internet and broadband phone companies to comply with a little-known law. Janet Babin reports from our Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.

JANET BABIN: It’s called CALEA, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

Since 1994 it required phone companies to make sure their lines could be tapped without the target knowing about it. And the FCC decided that cable companies, DSL providers, and voice over Internet companies like Skype now have to do the same.

Some estimated the price tag for compliance was in the billions. Civil liberties groups opposed the new regulations.

John Morris is an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

JOHN MORRIS: The FBI has made it clear that it would like to require that any Internet technology be designed to be wiretappable from the very beginning.

He says the new FCC rules lay the groundwork for much more intrusive regulation of the Internet, so an inventor of the next big thing would have to comply with the rules from day one.

Morris says greater regulation could chill innovation.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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