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By Declan McCullagh
February 16, 2011
The FBI is expected to reveal tomorrow that because of the rise of
Web-based e-mail and social networks, it's "increasingly unable" to
conduct certain types of surveillance that would be possible on cellular
and traditional telephones.
FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni will outline what the bureau is
calling the "Going Dark" problem, meaning that police can be thwarted
when conducting court-authorized eavesdropping because Internet
companies aren't required to build in backdoors in advance, or because
technology doesn't permit it.
Any solution, according to a copy of Caproni's prepared comments
obtained by CNET, should include a way for police armed with wiretap
orders to conduct surveillance of "Web-based e-mail, social networking
sites, and peer-to-peer communications technology."
The last example, which was floated last fall, is likely to be the most
contentious. When an encrypted voice application like Phil Zimmermann's
Zfone is used, the entire conversation is scrambled from end to end.
It's like handing a letter directly to its recipient -- bypassing the
workers at the neighborhood post office, who could be required to
forward a copy to the FBI.
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