The way we communicate has been steadily shifting away from telephone calls to e-mail, instant messaging, Skype, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, and other Internet-based communication methods. This shift has been bad news for more than just telcos; the difficulty of wiretapping the myriad of cloud-based communication methods has become an increasing cause of frustration for law enforcement agencies around the world.
That may be about to change. The New York Times reports that the FBI, NSA, US Justice Department and other agencies are seeking extensive new regulations that will significantly bolster law enforcement’s ability to wiretap Internet-based communications. Internet-based services such as Skype and Facebook would be required to provide plain-text versions of communications to law enforcement. Companies that facilitate encrypted peer-to-peer communications, such as Research in Motion, would be required to retain a copy of decryption keys so that plain-text versions of encrypted communications could be provided to law enforcement officials.
The proposed changes have far-reaching implications both for individuals’ privacy and for software companies providing any level of cloud-based peer-to-peer communication capabilities. The Obama administration plans to table the bill with the proposed changes to lawmakers next year.