FBI wants easier Internet surveillance, seeks nod from Web companies

The Federal Bureau of Investigation  headquarters in Washington.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Plan would require backdoors in email and networking tools.

The FBI is waging a charm offensive to persuade Internet companies not to oppose a proposal to require that email and networking tools are built with backdoors to allow government surveillance, CNET has reported.

The move suggests the agency is finding it difficult to intercept Internet communications as Web applications get increasingly complex.

The FBI general counsel's office has drafted a proposed law to require social media sites, email providers and voice over Internet protocol services -- such as Skype -- to adjust their source code to allow the government to listen in on traffic, according to the report. It would expand the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which requires that telecommunications providers -- but not Web companies -- build their systems to be wiretap-friendly.

The FBI is in talks with Web companies on how it can implement this rule and minimize its costs to the industry.

“A growing gap exists between the statutory authority of law enforcement to intercept electronic communications pursuant to court order and our practical ability to intercept those communications,” an agency representative told CNET. “The FBI believes that if this gap continues to grow, there is a very real risk of the government 'going dark,' resulting in an increased risk to national security and public safety."

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