August 3, 2013
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is secretly pressurizing telecommunications providers into installing spying devices inside internal networks of companies in order to facilitate espionage programs.
Citing the authorization of the move under the Patriot Act, FBI officials have been discussing with carriers in their effort to deploy government-supplied software, which will enable intercepting and analyzing all communications streams, CNET reported.
The software, now identified as “port reader”, used to be known internally as the “harvesting program.”
The FBI spokesman has said the agency has the legal authority to use alternate methods to collect Internet metadata. “In circumstances where a provider is unable to comply with a court order utilizing its own technical solution(s), law enforcement may offer to provide technical assistance to meet the obligation of the court order.”
But, police cannot intercept the contents of real-time communication streams, including email bodies, Facebook messages or streaming video unless a wiretap order from a judge is obtained.
Notwithstanding, “The statute hasn’t caught up with the realities of electronic communication,” says Colleen Boothby, a partner at the Washington, D.C. firm of Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby who represents technology companies and industry associations.
Boothby said judges cannot always comprehend how technology has outpaced the law.
In the past, judges drew this conclusion that they have no ability to reject pen register and trap and trace requests as a federal magistrate judge in Florida, in reference to pen register law, wrote “The court under the Act seemingly provides nothing more than a rubber stamp.”
“If magistrates knew more, they would approve less,” said an industry participant, adding, it’s “an interception device by definition”.
The participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said carriers are “extra-cautious” resisting installation of the software, as they say it poses privacy and security risks against a sensitive internal network.