UmeNow announced today that it wants the U.S. Senate to hold public hearings so the FBI can explain to the American public why CALEA should be amended to force social networks and other Internet-based companies to build side doors for the FBI to track people's private communication.
CNET has reported that the FBI is asking Internet-based companies not to oppose a proposal to require firms like Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google to build in backdoors for government surveillance. Currently, CALEA only applies to telecommunications providers, not Web companies. The Federal Communications Commission extended CALEA in 2004 to apply to broadband networks. If CALEA is amended per FBI request, it would require social-networking Web sites and providers of VoIP, instant messaging, and Web e-mail to alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.
"The FBI has an obligation to honor and uphold our constitution. Law-enforcement by surveillance and tracking is technologically easy to do. Therein lies the great danger. Where does it stop? Should we track people inside their homes too with cameras and microphones? Undoubtedly many secrets reside behind residential closed doors," stated Evelyn Castillo-Bach, founder and CEO of UmeNow, a private social network that has banned all tracking.
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) passed in 1994 mandated that phone companies install remote wiretapping ports so federal agents could monitor court-ordered wiretaps from their offices without attaching alligator clips to phone lines. A year after the CALEA passed, the FBI disclosed plans to require the phone companies to build into their infrastructure the capacity to simultaneously wiretap one percent of all phone calls in all major U.S. cities.
Philip Zimmerman, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), has stated, " It's hard to see how the government could even employ enough judges to sign enough wiretap orders to wiretap one percent of all our phone calls, much less hire enough federal agents to sit and listen to all that traffic in real time. The only plausible way of processing that amount of traffic is a massive Orwellian application of automated voice recognition technology to sift through it all, searching for interesting keywords or searching for a particular speaker's voice.... This plan sparked such outrage that it was defeated in Congress. But the mere fact that the FBI even asked for these broad powers is revealing of their agenda..."