August 23, 2004 | By Donna Wentworth

The Call Is Cheap. The Wiretap Is Extra.

The New York Times today looks (reg. req.) at the many costs that will be imposed on consumers and businesses by the FCC's plan to apply the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to the Internet and require Voice-over-IP (VoIP) providers to build wiretap-readiness into their systems. The controversial wiretapping plan will further erode online privacy, increase the cost of both Internet access and Internet-based phone services, and hinder technological innovation (see previous Deep Links coverage).

Our own Lee Tien warns that the potential for misuse is "pretty broad." "The problem is that if you are using a sniffer box to perform the interception, you may handle all the traffic going through," explains Tien. "In the end, a packet sniffer gets you everything."

If it sounds extreme, that's because it is. Fortunately, the FCC is taking comments from the public on the plan. EFF is preparing an action alert that we'll be posting in the next few weeks. In the meantime, check out the EFF FAQ, which provides exhaustive detail on what the plan entails and why it's a profound threat to privacy and innovation.

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