EFF to fight Feds' wiretapping demands

A new federal regulation ordering broadband providers to include backdoors in their networks for wiretaps is expected to be challenged in court.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said Wednesday that it plans to file suit against the new federal rule, announced last Friday and scheduled to take effect in early 2007. The suit won't be filed until the rules are officially published (probably next month) at the earliest.

In Friday's announcement, the Federal Communications Commission said that broadband providers and Internet phone companies that link to the public telephone network (Vonage, Packet 8, SkypeOut) must rewire their networks to readily accommodate police wiretaps. If they don't comply, they must shut down.

"A requiring backdoors in the Internet endangers the privacy of innocent people, stifles innovation, and risks the Internet as a forum for free and open expression," EFF said in a press release.

Two of the four FCC commissioners who voted on the regulations acknowledged that the agency's on shaky legal ground. That's because the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act was not intended to regulate Internet providers, and Congress even said so at the time.

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About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.


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