CCIA Sees Problems With Expanding Federal Wiretapping Scope, Penalties

April 29, 2013

A task force is reportedly working on legislation to require tech companies to allow law enforcement to intercept online communications with their customers, according to news reports. The proposal would expand existing law by fining companies for the first time when they don’t comply.

The task force was responding to complaints from the FBI and others that they have a “going dark” problem, meaning that it’s not technically possible now to wiretap some forms of communications.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association is a longtime opponent of excessive government surveillance, and has concerns about this proposal if it were to be introduced.

The following statement can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Our companies understand the challenges faced by law enforcement in investigating serious crimes. It’s important to also understand that law enforcement today has access to a vast wealth of information about suspects that their predecessors merely a decade ago could only have dreamed of. The claims of ‘going dark’ must be evaluated in this context:  massive amounts of information are stored online and shared with law enforcement — when they have gone through the proper process. Law enforcement in our country does not have a ‘going dark’ problem. By all accounts they have more information available to them than ever before – more than they know what to do with.

“While it is in the nature of any government to seek an ever increasing ability to monitor our customers communications, history is replete with examples of excess and abuse. Proposals to grant government the power they seek to compel private companies to help their customers be spied upon must be carefully scrutinized and limited. ”

“Even if there was a legitimate issue of law enforcement access to information, the new proposals floated today are the wrong approach. Mandating law enforcement access to a system does not magically make it so. Implementing such access would be cumbersome when not impossible, and the system would instantly become a target for cybersecurity intrusions. All of these impacts would fall disproportionately on small businesses that don’t have the resources of the larger companies. For start ups, it could make it too risky for them to even start. We all have constitutional rights to free speech, communication and privacy, it’s important to remember that there is no countervailing constitutional right to surveillance of citizens by our government.

“We hope other parts of our government, executive, congressional, and if necessary judicial, step up to ensure law enforcement zeal is tempered by the many other considerations that should be part of developing sensible policy in this area.”

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