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Should Internet communication firms be required to install a wiretapping capacity?

May 9, 2013

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

For the past year, the FBI has been asking Facebook, Skype, Google, and other Internet-based communications companies to go along with its proposal to require wiretapping capacity in their services to make court-ordered surveillance of users easier.

Driven by concerns that terrorists and other criminals are increasingly using the Internet to communicate, the FBI general counsel drafted a proposal that would require social network websites that offer instant messaging, voice-over-Internet-phones, email or other forms of communication to change their coding to ensure that their services can be readily tapped by the FBI. This would allow the law enforcement agency to track communications of suspects in real time.

The proposal is an amendment to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which forced phone companies developing digital phone systems to implement ways for law enforcement to wiretap suspects.

Like phone wiretaps, a court order would be required for any surveillance of communications through the Internet.

The law now instructs companies that receive a court order for a wiretap to provide technical assistance to the government when it is collecting data, but companies have enough wiggle room to argue that they tried and failed to make their technology easily tapped. In its most recent proposal, the FBI moved away from requiring companies to build in wiretapping capacity to fining a company that fails to comply with a court-order wiretap. A company could be fined up to $25,000 a day.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said the bureau’s surveillance capabilities are diminishing because, as technology advances, more people are using social networks and email to communicate. The FBI’s tools have become outdated, he said, making much more difficult to wiretap Americans suspected of illegal activities.

Andrew Weissmann, the FBI general counsel, said in a statement that the proposal was aimed only at preserving law enforcement officials’ longstanding ability to investigate suspected criminals, spies and terrorists, subject to a court’s permission.

“This doesn’t create any new legal surveillance authority,” he said. “This always requires a court order. None of the ‘going dark’ solutions would do anything except update the law given means of modern communications.”

Tech insiders argue that the proposal would not only be a hurdle for innovators to develop the next Facebook or Google, but it also might make the country more susceptible to cyber-terrorism.

“I think the FBI’s proposal would render Internet communications less secure and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves,” said Gregory T. Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “It would also mean that innovators who want to avoid new and expensive mandates will take their innovations abroad and develop them there, where there aren’t the same mandates.”

TechAmerica, a trade association that represents companies like HP, IBM and eBay, argues that forcing companies to comply with wiretapping laws would cost the companies millions and could usher in a new era of government intrusion into privacy.

Still others argue that the law would essentially give the federal government and the FBI the ability to decide whether a new form of communication could be developed and rolled out to the public.

What do you think?

Should Internet communication firms like Facebook and Google be required to install wiretap capability? Does the FBI need to update its surveillance tools or is its proposal an intrusion of users’ privacy? Would such a requirement harm development of new forms of communications? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
2/13/2014
sidney mt
Kennedi
Mr. Faulheber , siudney high school
I think they should be able to wiretap some specific sites such as facebook, instagram, twitter, youtube.. those seem to be the most popular. cyberbullying is a big thing and with more surveillance it could possibly decrease the percent.

9/27/2013
Watertown, MA
Gabriella
John Rimas
I think that the FBI should be able to follow what you say. You are putting it out in the public and should take responsibility for what you say. I think that by doing this, the FBI can help catch criminals here in the U.S., but also people who may want to harm us, for example preventing terrorism. It has been said that the U.S. is a reactive country meaning that they wait for bad things to happen, and with this technology maybe we can become a country that tries to prevent terrorist attacks, school shootings, and other harmful acts against society before it is too late. Since this country is addicted to social media.. it only makes sense.

9/25/2013
watertown ma
Vardan
RImas /watertown high school
to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats and to enforce the criminal laws of the United States in my opinion USA has the right to follow what you say. Cases like 911 FBI actually knew the guys and got calls from civilians with suspensions of possible terrorist taking flight lesson the biggest mistake of the FBI was not looking into the information since then i believe they should you never know what someone has in mind and who are they sharing it with.

6/5/2013
Irving/TX
Dennys A.
Bradley/Nimitz
To install wire tapping into the internet communication firms such as Google and Facebook puts an individuals privacy in peril. Its too much power to agencies like the FBI not to mention that there are hackers out there and if the had a route to everyone's privacy could that not lead to a very serious problem. It's to risky to move forward with such a plan.

6/4/2013
Irving/TX
but nguyen
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communication firms like Facebook and Google shouldn't be require to install wiretap capability. If this were to occur, our privacy will be at risk not only by the government, but also by the easiness for hackers to access websites and steal information. Instead of dumb-downing websites, so FBI and other hackers can access into them easier, FBI should try to upgrade their technologies that allows them to access those websites without having internet communication firms to change their coding. This will be a safer alternative and put the cost of the program on the government instead of the individual firms.

6/3/2013
Irving/TX
Kenia
Bradley/ Nimitz HS
It would be considered an abuse of power if the FBI required Internet communication firms like Facebook and Google to install wiretap capability. It would be less of a hassle if the FBI just updated their surveillance tools in order to accommodate this era. The FBI's proposal would just be an intrusion of users' privacy. Such a requirement would only harm the development of new forms of communications because the companies would have to comply to the law enforcement's. Furthermore if the companies did comply and changed their coding, so it could be easily and readily tapped, what would stop other countries, hackers, etc. from attempting to figure out the new code and also use it their advantage.

5/31/2013
Irving/Texas
Alan
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communication firms like Facebook and Google should not be required to install wiretap capability. A whole different aspect of invasion of privacy will be entered. The FBI needs to update its surveillance tools because they are clearly out of date, even though its proposal is still an invasion of privacy. The requirement would harm other new forms of communication because they will be worried about being wiretapped and how they can prevent their form from being exempt from the requirement.

5/31/2013
Irving/Texas
Darian
Bradley/Nimitz
I think Facebook and Google should be required to install wiretap capability. Because it is for the greater good of American and to protect people against criminals. The FBI needs to update there surveillance tools now and quit wasting time. If the FBI can't protect us from people breaking Federal laws who can?

5/30/2013
Irving/Tx
Kevin
Bradley/Nimitz
I am completely against the FBI forcing companies to make their services possible to wiretap. I feel that the fear mongering produced by the media has set in motion the death of privacy. As people become afraid they panic and resort to stupid decision. Just because there is a possible threat does not mean that our privacy should be so easily accessible to the government. The government already has many forms of surveillance and a new tool to spy on the public is unnecessary and just like any tool it could be abused. The FBI could monitor millions of citizens without a cause or someone else could hijack the system and gather information on U.S. citizens. It also brings in constitutional problems. It would mess with the 4th amendment stating no unreasonable searches and I whole heartedly believe that there would be many instances where the FBI would monitor certain individuals because of race or religious affiliations. It is a grave intrusion on personal privacy and I hope that citizens will cry out against this new form of surveillance. I also think that forcing companies to comply will be difficult as it will cost them millions out of their own pocket and it would most likely harm growth in new technology as it would always have to be accessible to the FBI.

5/30/2013
Irving, TX
TJ Wright
Bradley/ Nimitz High School
It would be a good and beneficial idea for certain communication firms to allow the FBI to wiretap their websites. like the article said, they have already used wiretapping before with phones. Since then the use of phones has increased tremendously, showing no signs of wiretapping being a problem. FBI should update their security because as times go on, technology is being modified and enhanced. Likewise, so should the FBI. People will just have to adapt and be more careful what they put out onto the internet. Even though anything you put out on the internet is never private.

5/30/2013
Irving/Tx
Adrian
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communication firms should be required to install wiretap capabilities. Although people say that it is an invasion of privacy, phones have been able to be tapped for many years now and it certainly hasn't stopped people from talking on the phone or send text messages to each other. In fact, more people have a phone now than they did when phones weren't tapped. It's just something that needs some getting used to. With the advancements in technology, there are many ways that criminals can get around law enforcement. Just as the criminals have ready access to state-of-the-art technology, so should our government. People want the government to protect us, but they don't want to give them the resources needed to do so. As stated, the only way the FBI will have access to the wiretap capabilities is with a court order. The internet has become a lifestyle in our society, and I know that having it wiretapped will not harm it in any way. On the other hand, it might even benefit the internet.

5/29/2013
Irving/Texas
Timothy
Bradley/Nimitz
The PATRIOT Act ushered in a new era of government invasion into the private citizen. This is another attempt to profile and do the same thing. Whether or not the requirement for a wiretap capability would injure the firm is irrelevant. The possibility of such a deep invasion of privacy is deeply concerning. Forcing firms to install wiretap capabilities allows the FBI to, on a whim, look into the personal lives of people who may not be guilty of anything. That invasion of privacy is a violation of the principles that this nation was founded upon.

5/29/2013
Irving/TX
Kelly
Bradley/Nimitz
I don't see anything wrong with wiretapping internet communications to determine crimes and such. I don't believe it's an invasion of privacy because it would only be used to track people who are doing things wrong. Surveillance comes in handy and could really help figure out data. Thy wouldn't be invading just anyone's personal accounts.

5/28/2013
Irving/Tx
Kelsie
Bradley/Nimitz
I really disagree with the fact that social networks such as Facebook require wiretap capability. The FBI shouldn't have the right to tap personal accounts unless the have reason. Yes, I believe that the FBI needs to update it's surveillance tools just in case it does come an occasion where they really need to such as terrorist attacks. I don't have anything to hide on my Facebook account, but at he same time I wouldn't want anybody tapping it.

5/28/2013
Irving/Texas
Helen
Bradley/Nimitz
Communication firms should not have to install wiretapping into their software if it puts at risk the information of thousands of innocent people. If one person is under investigation than with the proper warrant the government should be able to go into their accounts but it should at no put at risk the information of people who have nothing to do with the investigation being done.

5/24/2013
Irving/Texas
Yeny
Bradley/Nimitz
The reason to having wiretapping on social networks is a good idea but it also violates the privacy of people if they want to do video chats,voice to voice, etc, but that's not going to be a way to capture any suspects. Suspects are going to find their ways to be still be in touch with each other. I companies create an advanced methods of wiretapping for social networks and they know that it won't violate people's privacy then go ahead, but it also needs to be something effective that will capture possible suspects. Computer people that live in the technology world will always find a way to hack things that's something that will need something stronger for hackers to hack. Better security in the internet to avoid any issues like that should be created but made with advanced technology to where you can know hackers are trying to hack and you're able to do something in that moment to stop them and take care of the problem.

5/23/2013
Irving/Tx
Elyssa
Bradley/Nimitz
If you don't have anything to hide on internet communications such as Google or Facebook then requiring an installation of wiretap shouldn’t cause that much of a hassle. If you put anything on the internet than it must not be that private. Allowing a wiretap can keep the web community safe and informed. The FBI needs to update their surveillance not only to ensure the safety of its citizens but to find info more efficiently. To wiretap someones phone you would need a court order so to wiretap an internet communication they also need to be required to have a court order. If they don't update their surveillance they cant efficiently do their job they need to advance with technology. New internet communications could refuse to wiretap customers and they could get fined pushing them away with fear. This could also affect old internet services too, if old services refuse they could also be fined and they would leave because they don't want to deal with the FBI.

5/23/2013
Irving
Yessica
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communication firms should not be required to install wiretap because a lot of people who do use the internet are average people. If the government is able to see everyone's private conversations, that would just add on to the list of freedoms that we do not have. If they suspect someone is doing bad things such a terrorism they should able to get into their conversations yet they should not have the right to get into innocent conversations.There should be new development for the FBI since technology is always changing and improving however our freedom and privacy should not be denied or taken away.

5/23/2013
Irving/Tx
Crystal
Bradley/Nimitz
The usage of wiretapping is a positive thing for the people of the United States since recently we have an increase of attacks upon our people. Yes, the government is taking some of our privacy rights away, but what could really happen to us with the whole wiretapping? Do we have something to hide? Are we doing something illegal that we don't want the government to know? It is precaution for us, the people, we rather be safe than sorry. I support this kind of act.

5/23/2013
Irving/Texas
Samantha N. S.
Bradley/Nimitz
Requiring internet websites like Facebook and Google to install wiretap capabilities is not an invasion of privacy. I think people just get taken aback when they hear the FBI would have the ability to access their information and messages, but the agencies would only go through information that is important and pertains to the safety of the nation, and would not infringe on people's privacy. The requirement would benefit the FBI and the security of our nation, and it's time they update their surveillance tools- keeping up with the technological advances just like everyone else. I don't think the requirement would harm the development of new forms of communication, or cost any additional money to the companies, and there is no proof showing otherwise.

5/23/2013
Irving/Texas
Grace
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communication firms should not be able to install wiretap capabilities because it would be a violation of the users' privacy. It is understandable that all this is for the protection of the people, but wiretapping just seems too much of a penetration of one's privacy. When the people find out that internet communications will be wiretapped from now on, then no one will want to use them anymore because they don't want strangers to be barging in into their personal lives.

5/22/2013
Irving/Texas
April S.
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet companies should not be forced to install wiretaps because it could affect people personal lives. This would intrude on people's privacy. It would also cause for a lot of false alarms that the company would have to deal with. People would be less likely to use new forms of communication if they know that the FBI is always going to be watching what they do constantly. Some people don't want the possibility of their information being leaked when it doesn't concern anyone but them.

5/22/2013
Irving/Texas
Misael
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet companies should not be forced to install wiretaps in their software because it really could affect personal information that could be leaked through these wiretaps. Not only that but it would make hacking easier for many criminals if they new that these software have loopholes to infiltrate people's information. The FBI like always likes to intrude on people's privacy for the "safety" of the public as a whole. These new proposals by the law enforcement agency really do harm the development of new and better forms of communication.

5/21/2013
Irving/Texas
Zachery
Bradley/Nimitz
I do not think that internet communication firms like Facebook and Google be required to install wiretap capability whatsoever. It would definitely cost the companies to spend a lot of money to install them and develop these types of wiretapping capabilities. In addition, why should the FBI make these companies upgrade their system to benefit the FBI because their system is out of date? The FBI needs to update and upgrade their own types of equipment to be able to wiretap. Also if something did happen and there was a cyber-terrorism attack on the United States that it would make there job a lot easier. What if companies with great ideas have to start wiretapping all of their new developments in technology? It would definitely hinder them from developing new and amazing technological breakthroughs.

5/21/2013
Irving/Texas
Wesley
Bradley/Nimitz
There is no constitutional intrusion on wire-taping social media websites. The FBI still gets a court order first and in no way infringes upon our rights to no unreasonable search and seizures. But, thee communication firms should not be required to install wire-tap capabilities into their websites. Like the article said, this doesn't just open the door for FBI use. It also opens the door for a flood of hackers, some trivial, some highly dangerous. This requirement is more expensive for companies and is not very advantageous. Thus, the FBI has no right to hurt our world of free enterprise. The FBI needs to upgrade its technology instead of feeding off our already successful entrepreneurs of communication.

5/20/2013
Irving/Texas
April K.
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communication firms like Facebook and Google should be not required to install wiretap capability. It would not be easy and affordable for all firms, so it should not be required. The requirement could harm development of new forms of communication. It also could increase the risk of hackers getting into more internet communications. The true solution would be the FBI updating its surveillance tools. It is not an intrusion of users' privacy, because it still requires a court order and is the same thing as phone wiretaps. The access is already available to get into internet communications by the FBI, it is just not so speedy and easy. For now it should be encouraged for installation of wiretapping if due-able for a company but, unless the government is going to help all the companies by giving money to enforce any new wiretapping laws, of which it would be costing too much for the government for it to be worth it anyways, there should be no requirement of the wiretapping.

5/20/2013
Irving/TX
Gabe
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that the FBI's proposal would be a wise update in it's surveillance tools. Andrew Weissmann's explanation of the proposal reveals it to be nothing to worry about, because it the investigation requires a court's permission and would allow them to more easily stop suspected criminals, spies, and terrorists. It is more simply a preservation of already existing investigative abilities. And plus, if you are putting something up on the internet, it's not private.

5/20/2013
Irving/Texas
Jessica W.
Bradley/Nimitz
The FBI should be allowed to use wiretapping capability onto social networking sites. But I do believe that a court order should be required in order for them to use it. I think the FBI does not need to update its privacy proposal because in my opinion, safety of citizens trumps privacy. I do not think that this will harm the development of new forms of communication but will make it safer to use.

5/16/2013
Irving/Texas
Cody
Bradley/Nimitz
FBI should be allowed to install wiretap capability onto Facebook and Google. It should be installed, but the FBI should be required to have a court order to use the software. I am perfectly okay with the FBI being ready to use it, but they should NOT be allowed to use it without a court order. If the FBI does update and upload this software, ALL users should be updated on their new rights and the new rights the FBI now has.

5/15/2013
Irving/Texas
Maddie
Bradley/Nimitz
Installing wiretap capability sounds like a good idea since the FBI would be more capable to catch criminals and terrorists. The better option, although there may be a few consequences would be to require wiretapping capability. The FBI is an imperative aspect of our society so they should be fully updated at all times, no matter what. This proposal might harm new development or it might not, but we won't truly know until a final decision is made.

5/15/2013
Irving/Texas
Monica A.
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communication firms shouldn't have to be required to install wiretap capability. It would be an invasion of privacy and scare away users or customers. The DBI doesn't need to update its surveillance tools, it would just cause more problems. A requirement like this would harm new form of communication because nobody is going to use if they're being spied on.

5/15/2013
Rudyard/Montana
Drew
Mrs. Campbell/Northstar
I agree with this plan. If there was a serial killer out there threatening to kill your kids would you use whatever means necessary to catch him? In this case he may have a Facebook that he is communicating with people on. He could be luring them by acting young then killing them by inviting them somewhere. Wouldn't you want the FBI to be able to find his next place so they can stop him before he commits the crime? I love how people think this is bad up until something like this happens. Then there mad at the government for not allowing them to tap this guys Facebook. But truly it's our own fault because the government is there to listen to us.

5/14/2013
Irving/ Tx
Samantha S
Bradley/ Nimitz
Obviously having the government wiretap into our internet is completely taking our right of privacy away. So they simply should not. The government and their organizations they provide form the public already requires for lots of private information from an individual, which is suppose to be kept file in private database. So the question is, what else do they want to know from us? if any other information is needed they could ask for it when needed or in an appropriate situation.

5/14/2013
Rudyard Montana
Aron
Mrs.cambell
No internet communication firms like facebook and google should not be requird to install wiretap capability. One it could potenitally hurt the company more than it could help the government agencies. Second the wiretaps could allow government firms to access our private sites and personal information. Third this wiretap coult potenitally be used by syber terrorists to access our important information. The FBI's proposal is just plain and simple an intrusion of users' privacy. This would harm development of new forms of communication. Really what the FBI and other agencies should do is hire people who know how to work computer software. They should be people that could help them find information online without the involment of web companies. There are alternative resources its just the FBI is just trying to do what it thinks is best for them, and no one else. The reason I am reporting this is I put the wrong teachers name on this is the correct one

5/13/2013
Irving/Texas
Giancarlo
Bradley/Nimitz
Social networking sites should not be wiretapped. The right to privacy is one of the key factors in the Bill of Rights. If wiretapping is implemented, the amendment will be threatened. People would not want to use any of these social websites due to the eavesdropping the FBI would be doing. Terrorism might be out on the Internet, but why should the public feel insecure on they do on there? Citizens will feel stripped of their right.

5/13/2013
Irving/Texas
Leslie
Bradley /Nimitz
Just thinking of having internet communication like Facebook and Google wiretap can cause many disturbance to people. Because as a personal experience in my computer I still cover my camera because you will never know when a hacker can hack my computer and watch me. And that same feeling I have many people will have because instilling a wiretap will invade many peoples privacy. The FBI should have the right to enter a criminals internet communication if they have the authority to enter in to the criminals communication with out having to go though everyone internet communication wiretap. The FBI should come up with another suggestion because other people could find peoples information easily if the internet is wiretap.

5/13/2013
Irving/Tx
Joshua B
Bradley/Nimitz
No I don't think that there should be a wiretapping on the Internet because I believe that is an invasion of privacy. Now if the police have suspicions about what someone is saying or doing over the Internet, then they could simply ask that person or have a warrant search through that persons computer.

5/13/2013
Rudyard,MT
Dono
Mrs.Campbell, Northstar
Well Facebook and Skype and google and other internet sets shouldn't be required to install wiretapping capability. Those sets are for the people. For the FBI to wiretap the sets. I think that the FBI should ask the company of the sets to wiretap the sets to find what ever they are trying to find, and i agree with Aron from Rudyard, MT.

5/10/2013
Irving/Texas
Tasia
Bradley/Nimitz
Internet communications firms like facebook and google shouldn't be required to install wiretap capability. If the governments states they have suspects they should only go on and into that suspects social networking things. Also the suspect would have to get it to them if it is court ordered or they can just hack into it. If the FBI is allowed to wiretap I feel that it is invading our privacy and taking away our freedom step by step but trying to do it under the table. This requirement would also let it become easier for hackers to be able to hack into other peoples facebook and social networking places.

5/9/2013
Rudyard, Montana
Aron
Mrs. Chinadle, Northstar High School
No internet communication firms like facebook and google should not be requird to install wiretap capability. One it could potenitally hurt the company more than it could help the government agencies. Second the wiretaps could allow government firms to access our private sites and personal information. Third this wiretap coult potenitally be used by syber terrorists to access our important information. The FBI's proposal is just plain and simple an intrusion of users' privacy. This would harm development of new forms of communication. Really what the FBI and other agencies should do is hire people who know how to work computer software. They should be people that could help them find information online without the involment of web companies. There are alternative resources its just the FBI is just trying to do what it thinks is best for them, and no one else.

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