Washington – The Washington Post reported today that the FBI is seeking authority to require surveillance backdoors in all popular Internet products and services.
“A wiretapping mandate is a vulnerability mandate,” said CDT Senior Staff Technologist Joe Hall. “The unintended consequences of this proposal are profound. At the very time when the nation is concerned about cybersecurity, the FBI proposal has the potential to make our communications less secure. Once you build a wiretap capability into products and services, the bad guys will find a way to use it.”
“This is essentially a ‘wiretap tax’ that will stunt innovation,” said CDT President Leslie Harris. “What the FBI is proposing sounds benign, but it comes with such onerous penalties that it would force developers to seek pre-approval from the FBI. No one is going to want to face fines that double every day, so they will go to the FBI and work it out in advance, diverting resources, slowing innovation, and resulting in less secure products.”
“The sad irony,” said Hall, “is that this is likely to be ineffective. Building a communications tool today is a homework project for undergraduates. So much is based on open source and can be readily customized. Criminals and other bad actors will simply use homemade communication services based offshore, making them even harder to monitor.”