[ISN] Big Brother Wants to Watch

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Mon Aug 31 1998 - 22:48:00 PDT

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    Forwarded From: Nicholas Charles Brawn <ncb05at_private>
    By Wickham, Rhonda L.
    The FBI has been floating its legislative recommendation to rewrite the
    1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) before
    members of the Senate. I suppose the FBI wants to see if it can make its
    outrageous requests fly. While this goes on, you should feel more than a
    little trepidation, first as a citizen and then as a carrier. If the FBI
    has its way, a large portion of your right to privacy as an American
    citizen will be snatched away from you. As a carrier, you will lose lots
    of money and watch your reputation disintegrate. 
    One of the key provisions of the FBI's amendment asks for more
    accessibility to all citizens' private information. If there is a
    suspicious event that the FBI deems as an "emergency," it simply could
    call up a carrier, access your records and obtain your whereabouts for the
    past two days. If that isn't bad enough, the FBI also wanted to require
    wireless carriers to provide recordings of any conversations during that
    period. All of this information would be made available from the carrier
    simply because any member of law enforcement asked. 
    As a law-abiding citizen, save my occasional speeding tickets, I really
    wasn't alarmed with the locating requirements. I figured I didn't go
    anywhere that I would be embarrassed for anyone to know. However, when I
    found out that any law enforcement officer potentially could summon all of
    this information as well as my voice records simply by asking, the hairs
    on the back of my neck stood up. Every citizen's telephone calls, both
    wireless and wireline, deserve to be private unless they choose to make
    them public. 
    CTIA has been active and vocal in its protests against the FBI's view. As
    well it should be. Aside from the pure invasion of privacy, consider what
    happens to wireless carriers if the FBI gets to "watch" whomever they want
    whenever they want. 
    Carriers would have to implement massive equipment changes in order to
    accommodate these law-enforcement capabilities. According to a CTIA
    spokesperson, it represents so much money across both the wireless and
    wireline industries, the association hasn't even tried to tag on a
    monetary value. If the tab is that large, carriers would have no choice
    but to pass the cost onto subscribers. Not only would citizens lose some
    of their privacy, they would be paying carriers to subsidize the
    government's ability to do it. 
    To be fair, the FBI offered a plan for distributing some $500 million to
    help carriers upgrade and replace their equipment to meet these
    requirements. However, it wants to designate dollars on a pro-rata basis. 
    Carriers with the largest number of customers at a given time would
    receive the largest percentage of it. Obviously, if that "given time" was
    1995, the large cellular carriers stood to gain a larger portion of the
    dough than the new PCS carriers. If PCS carriers then had to foot the
    FBI's surveillance bill without substantial assistance, it may have been
    the last straw, large-ticket item that drove them into obscurity and
    In the American tradition, the good guys always have been required to
    prove they had reasonable cause to intrude on someone's privacy. They
    needed to then obtain court documents that granted them permission to
    invade someone's privacy. The FBI's latest attempt at rewriting CALEA
    would absolve agents of carrying this burden of justification on their own
    shoulders. If the FBI won its way to "watch," it would not only jack up
    costs to carriers and dampen competition overall. It also would cast the
    telephone carrier as a conspiratorial bad guy who would willingly open up
    each citizen's telephone account for scrutiny and possible prosecution. 
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