Why Your Facebook Scares the Feds

Your Facebook and Twitter accounts scare federal law enforcement. So does your Skype setup and your BlackBerry. If it's hard to tap, the feds fear it, which is why the Obama administration is calling for a bunch of new backdoors.

All social networks, email websites and peer-to-peer messaging systems would have to build in easy wiretapping capabilities for law enforcement under a law the administration plans to put forward next year, says the New York Times. It seems systems with built in encryption systems, like Skype and the BlackBerry, are very tricky for the FBI to break into, so the idea is to make the engineers who build these systems think like narcs: All of a service's encryption must be breakable and all communications it enables interceptable, even if said communication is, by design, peer to peer.

It's not entirely clear why social networks, which are highly centralized and typically lack encryption, are included in the legislation; perhaps the feds fear that getting "unfriended" will present an insurmountable technical hurdle, or that Facebook users will suddenly start scrambling their wall posts and private messages. That's unlikely. What is likely is that the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple will lobby hard to prevent their engineers being drafted into doing law enforcement work for free. As one former Sun Microsystems engineer told the Times,

"Every engineer who is developing the wiretap system is an engineer who is not building in greater security, more features, or getting the product out faster."

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