August 29, 2005 | By Derek Slater

Give the Government an Inch of CALEA and It Will Take a Mile of Privacy

The FCC is set to expand CALEA and force VoIP and broadband providers to make their networks wiretap-"friendly." Along with curbing technological innovation and passing along the costs to service providers and their customers, this casual expansion of surveillance powers poses a substantial privacy threat. If we want to see where the slippery slope leads, we need look no further than Italy.

According to a recent LA Times story, wiretaps in Italy are so easy to do that they're used routinely to snoop on millions of innocent people:

"Surreptitious listening is now so common in Italy that people with little or no connection to criminal cases have found themselves recorded and their private utterings made public in newspapers....

"One of Italy's largest cellphone companies complained this year that government-ordered taps — 7,000 at one time — had maxed out its technological capacity."

Expanding CALEA invites this kind of abuse, risking pervasive surveillance of private communication. As we note in our letter to Time magazine, additional surveillance isn't necessary to achieve legitimate law enforcement ends -- Internet service providers already cooperate with law enforcement to provide sufficient information under existing laws, and there's nothing to suggest that the FBI is having any trouble with compliance. The potential incremental benefit of extending CALEA to the Internet just isn't worth the inevitable, immense costs.

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