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EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 27 - FCC Issues Rule Allowing FBI to Dictate Wiretap-Friendly Design for Internet Services


EFFector - Volume 18, Issue 27 - FCC Issues Rule Allowing FBI to Dictate Wiretap-Friendly Design for Internet Services

EFFector       Vol. 18, No. 27       August 11, 2005

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 344th Issue of EFFector:

FCC Issues Rule Allowing FBI to Dictate Wiretap-Friendly Design for Internet Services

Tech Mandates Force Companies to Build Backdoors into Broadband, VoIP

Washington, DC - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week issued a release announcing its new rule expanding the reach of the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). The ruling is a reinterpretation of the scope of CALEA and will force Internet broadband providers and certain Voice-over-IP (VoIP) providers to build backdoors into their networks that make it easier for law enforcement to wiretap them. EFF has argued against this expansion of CALEA in several rounds of comments to the FCC on its proposed rule.

CALEA, a law passed in the early 1990s, mandated that all telephone providers build tappability into their networks, but expressly ruled out information services like broadband. Under the new ruling from the FCC, this tappability now extends to Internet broadband providers as well.

Practically, what this means is that the government will be asking broadband providers - as well as companies that manufacture devices used for broadband communications - to build insecure backdoors into their networks, imperiling the privacy and security of citizens on the Internet. It also hobbles technical innovation by forcing companies involved in broadband to redesign their products to meet government requirements.

"Expanding CALEA to the Internet is contrary to the statute and is a fundamentally flawed public policy," said Kurt Opsahl, EFF staff attorney. "This misguided tech mandate endangers the privacy of innocent people, stifles innovation, and risks the functionality of the Internet as a forum for free and open expression."

At the same time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking airlines to build similar backdoors into the phone and data networks on airplanes. EFF and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) submitted joint comments to the FCC arguing against the DOJ's unprecedented and sweeping new technology design mandates and anticipatory wiretapping system.

The FCC's new proposal to expand CALEA to airline broadband illustrates the fallacy of law enforcement's rationale for its CALEA request. The DOJ takes the position that broadband has "substantially replaced" the local telephone exchange, but this claim is reduced to the point of absurdity aboard an airplane and opens the door for CALEA to cover just about anything.

For this release:

More about CALEA:

Washington Post: "Groups Slam FCC on Internet Phone Tap Rule":

Wired: "Critics Slam Net Wiretapping Rule":,1848,68483,00.html

GovExec.Com: "Justice Department Effort to Eavesdrop on Airline Passengers Challenged":

Electronic Frontier Foundation Announces New Hires

Corynne McSherry Joins Legal Staff; Nicole Nguyen Heads Membership

San Francisco, CA - EFF is pleased to announce the addition of two people to our staff. Corynne McSherry, a Staff Attorney, will be filling out the organization's legal team of intellectual property experts. Nicole Nguyen joins EFF's development team as Membership Coordinator, working on outreach campaigns and membership drives.

McSherry specializes in intellectual property and contract issues. Prior to joining EFF, she was a civil litigator at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, LLP. She has a Ph.D from the University of California at San Diego and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. While in law school, McSherry published "Who Owns Academic Work: Battling for Control of Academic Intellectual Property" (Harvard University Press).

Before joining EFF, Nguyen worked as a Program Representative for the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and as a Senior International Assignment Consultant for Cendant Mobility. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a minor in Political Science (with emphasis in International Relations) from the University of California, Irvine.

"We're thrilled to have brought Corynne and Nicole on board," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "With their track records and skills, we're sure they'll make great additions to our team."

EFF currently has 26 employees, including two who are based outside the US and working on international issues.

For this release:

Activism Update - How Your Voice Is Making a Difference

There's an old stereotype that technologists are somehow disengaged from activism, and that being on the Net means that you don't get involved with the "real world." But from what we've seen since we debuted our revamped Action Center, it's well past time to lay the stereotype to rest.

Since March, you've sent more than 60,000 faxes and emails to your representatives to speak your mind about everything from reforming the DMCA, to ensuring the integrity and security of electronic voting, to beating the Broadcast Flag. As a result, in the last six months, every US senator and House representative has heard from an EFF supporter - and many members of Congress have had their inboxes flooded with email about issues they may previously have considered obscure or minority topics.

Numbers don't tell the whole story. Often, the messages that make the most impact are those that reflect personal experience. In June, more than 13,000 of you sent messages over a four-day period that helped torpedo a stealth revival of the Broadcast Flag. But over the next few weeks, 200 more of you also sent legislators personal accounts of building open-source MythTV personal video recorders - a tangible reminder of the innovation that would be crushed under any future government technology mandate.

You may not have seen every alert we sent out. Twice this year we sent California residents their own customized issues of EFFector, urging them to support a new bill to keep radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking tags out of California IDs until there are safeguards in place to protect personal privacy. They responded en masse - and now this ground-breaking legislation has passed in the California Senate and is headed for the California Assembly.

And just last week, we sent a special targeted alert to EFFector subscribers from 20 districts asking if they want to discuss, in person with their representatives, the importance of ensuring secure, accountable electronic voting. With the help of EFF supporters joining grassroots lobbying efforts like this, Congressman Rush Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act - the "gold standard" of e-voting bills - has already garnered 140 sponsors from both sides of the aisle.

Far from being disengaged, you've been at the front lines of every battle to keep the Internet safe and free - writing email, sending faxes, calling, and even meeting personally with your representatives. You've proven you can make a difference. We thank you, and we encourage you to keep making your voice heard.

Check out our current alerts and take action today!

EFF Announces Blog-a-thon Winners!

To mark EFF's 15th anniversary and celebrate freedom of expression on the Internet, we recently launched the "EFF15 Blog-a-thon," inviting you to write about your personal experiences fighting for freedom online. Thanks to your contributions, it was stunning success. We heard tremendously inspiring stories about everything from joining the Blue Ribbon campaign to challenging Diebold's take-down demands, from defending fair use to standing up for free speech in Singapore. You can still check them out at Technorati and PubSub

No one loses in a blog-a-thon, but we had to choose three lucky bloggers to receive a thank-you gift: our new bloggers' rights t-shirt, special EFF-branded blogger pajama pants, a pound of coffee, and a pair of fuzzy slippers. Our independent panel of judges - Susan Crawford, Mike Godwin, Xeni Jardin, JD Lasica, and Ernest Miller - sent us their picks, and we're pleased to announce the winners:

Most Inspirational
IO Error, "In Defense of Freedom":
"As I said in an Independence Day posting a few weeks ago, the fight for liberty is not only conducted by the armed forces, it is conducted every day by ordinary citizens like you and me. We cannot protect freedom by curtailing it. Enemies of freedom, both foreign and domestic, threaten us every day, and we must be prepared to stand up to anyone who would take away the liberty which has made this country unique among nations."

Most Humorous
Memoirs of a Guardian Vampire, "Fair Use ... What Use Is It? (Harry Potter Woke Up Goth)":
"'Moribund is the core of my consciousness. Half-Heartedly I crawl through the strange forest until insecurities strip me of my fears. Suicide, Suicide, Suicide. Thou art my obsession.'

Thus were the thoughts that greeted Harry Potter as he woke that morning."

Best Overall
The Ramblings of Laura Crossett, "The Medium Is Not the Message":
"As I read news reports now, five years later, about bloggers getting in trouble for their writing, I'm reminded of that moment in the basement of Jessup and of the inability, or unwillingness, of the woman at the end of the hall to see electronic communication as equal to oral communication. The attempts to say that bloggers don't have the same rights as journalists stem, in part, from a belief that electronic print is not equal to hard copy print. "

Congratulations to the winners and all the participants. Thanks to our judges as well as Mary Hodder, Technorati, and Pubsub for their support. And to everyone out there in the blogosphere - we encourage you to keep blogging for freedom!

Is Your Software License Robbing You of First-Sale Rights?

EFF is interested in finding out whether software vendors are using end user license agreements (EULAs) to interfere with your right to resell or give away software that you don't need anymore. Have you had trouble buying or selling legitimate software on eBay or other places? If so, we want to hear about it. In particular, we're looking for stories about obsolete software that the vendor no longer offers and won't let people buy elsewhere. (Older versions of software can be more useful and desirable than the updated versions, but the vendor typically pushes customers to purchase the newer, more expensive software.)

Please send your to story to - and be sure to include a copy of the relevant EULA.

Participate in the Thought Thieve$ Film Competition

Never afraid to reach new heights on the unintentional comedy scale, Microsoft UK debuted its "Thought Thieves" film competition in May. Microsoft called for original videos "about people stealing the ideas in your head" and "intellectual property theft."

To counter this misleading campaign, a few good souls "stole" the idea and started the "Thought Thieve$" film competition "about big companies stealing and profiting from the knowledge commons." Reads the announcement:

"Think about it: how would you feel if you saw your cultural traditions, collective creativity, thousands-year-old seed strains, indigenous medicinal knowledge, or even your very genetic code being passed off as the property of some multinational corporation? What would you do?"

EFF is an affiliate of the competition, so we're helping to spread the word! If you have a story to tell about corporate piracy, send your short film in by September 16, 2005. You may win prizes and be included in an international distribution and screening series.

Check out the contest website for details:

Privacy Advisory - Leave My Child Alone!

Did you know that President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act mandates that public high schools turn over private student contact information to local military recruiters or risk losing federal education funding? Not only that, but the Pentagon has compiled a database of more than 30 million young people, including 16- and 17-year-olds, for the purpose of military recruitment?

The Leave My Child Alone! coalition makes it easy to protect children from unwanted military recruiting by getting their names off both of these lists. To opt your child out, go to:

From September 7-30, Leave My Child Alone! coalition partners will be mounting a nationwide "back to school" campaign complete with events in all 50 states plus Washington, DC. You can join up with other concerned parents, teachers, grandparents, veterans, privacy advocates, and members of your local community by attending or organizing school board meeting outings to advocate for opt-out policies and pass model school board resolutions. To find out about events near you, or to find out how you can organize an event yourself, go to:

The Leave My Child Alone! coalition was created by Working Assets, ACORN, and Mainstreet Moms to protect high school students from unwanted military recruiting. Since the coalition's launch on Mother's Day, concerned parents nationwide have held more than 110 "opt out" events, and more than 10,000 children have been opted out of lists that public high schools turn over to military recruiters. EFF strongly supports initiatives like this to halt the government's collection of private information about citizens.


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

From Freedom to Consumption
David Isenberg talks about how the new FCC chairman is already rewriting Powell's "Four Freedoms":

Following the Movie Money
Slate finds out how the movie industry makes a good chunk of its money - off unlocked, free, over-the-air content, as it happens:

Apple Refunds Canadian iPod Levies
Unfortunately, the deal that removed the levies also made ripping CDs illegal. Time to spend that rebate (and a few extra thousand dollars) filling those empty gigs at iTunes instead:

Times Are Good for P2P Networks *and* Music Industry
P2P networks are getting more popular, even as online music store sales ramp up. Weren't they supposed to kill each other?

Texas Consumers to Elected Leaders: "Please Listen to Us"
Jon Lebkowsky's fine letter to the Texas legislature, asking it to punt bad broadband bills:

Hearing Update on 2257 Regs
The adult entertainment industry seems to be doing well in the legal fight against the onerous DOJ requirements that threaten everyone's free speech rights:
(AVN; Warning: not work-safe.)
EFF's own Kurt Opsahl on why these regulations aren't "just a porn problem":

Open Access Webliography
An excellent resource for those exploring the debate over open access to academic knowledge:

Buildings With Souls That Must Not Be Stolen
A curiously well-illustrated list of things that someone has forbidden you to photograph or reproduce:

Copyright Registration - For IE Users Only?
Somebody should tell the Library of Congress that people who use open-source browsers are entitled to copyright, too:

PATRIOT Civil Liberties Oversight Panel MIA
The Washington Post investigates the $1.5 million dollar disappearance:


EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
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+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)

Donna Wentworth, Web Writer/Activist

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