Following the lead of nations like India and the Arab Emirates an Obama administration task force is working to ensure that your phone, email and even Facebook status are available for immediate and consistent snooping.
A 1994 law established that cell and broadband network companies must design their systems so that survelliance can begin immediately after they are presented with a court order. But rapidly changing technology and regular network updates has complicated that process.
Charlie Savage of the NYT reported on two previously undisclosed instances in which court ordered wiretaps on suspected criminals and terrorists delayed for weeks and even months.
Only a few weeks ago it was reported that the government is attempting to bring web services like Gmail, Facebook and Skype under the same 1994 law, angering open internet advocates.
“We think that the F.C.C. has already conceded too much to the bureau,” said Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the NYT. “The F.B.I.’s ability to have such broad reach over technical standard-setting was never anticipated in the 1994 act.”
Rotenberg has a sound point. Ensuring that court orders can be carried out in a timely fashion makes sense. Allowing the government to set prohibitive standards for rapidly developing technologies networks, even in the service of justice, is the recipe for a boondoggle.