Two days ago this story appeared on the New York Times website:
Shades of George Bush and his warrantless wiretaps. Only this time it’s the Obama administration wanting easier access to Americans’ Internet activities.
Law enforcement and national security officials want to be able to intercept and unscramble encrypted communications on social networks (eg, Facebook), encrypted email carriers (eg, BlackBerry), and peer-to-peer messaging services (eg, Skype). And the administration is planning to introduce legislation next year to require the providers make whatever technological changes are necessary to ensure they can comply with any possible wiretap orders.
The government argues the move is necessary because its security and surveillance capabilities are gradually eroding. The idea is to force communications providers to change their technologies to accommodate government capabilities, instead of the government having to update its technology and methods to keep up with advancing communications technologies.
It’s worrisome that the government charged with protecting us is having difficulty tracking every communication of every possible criminal and terrorist in the world. But not by any stretch of the imagination does that entitle it to tell private companies what technologies they must develop and employ. Especially not when doing so endangers the privacy rights of the 96% of the world’s citizens who are not criminals or terrorists.