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VOIP Tappings Under Scrutiny

CmdrTaco posted about 9 years ago | from the as-well-they-should-be dept.

Privacy 107

dynooomite writes " is reporting that Privacy groups have asked an appellate court to overturn an FCC rule that allows for phone-taps on VOIP calls. The privacy groups made their case saying taps would seriously hinder innovation on the web."

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Encryption? (5, Interesting)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | about 9 years ago | (#13892037)

If I choose to encrypt my VOIP traffic using some sort of TLS, would such a ruling allow the FCC to force me to give them my encryption key?

Re:Encryption? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | about 9 years ago | (#13892087)

it already does it Britain (not to the FCC, obviously)

Only with a warrant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13893251)

Only with a warrant - the RIP laws do NOT involve mandatory key escrow as you seem to imply (history has shown such a requirement is futile and will be ignored by the criminals anyway).

Besides, the same is true in the U.S. - you can be held in contempt of court in most places for obstructing an investigation (using crypto to hinder the case is just another charge they may add on).

Re:Encryption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892111)

Better yet, if the VoIP calls are encrypted, how can a government organization possibly tap the conversations?

Re:Encryption? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892223)

Yeah, if only an agency existed that could intercept and decrypt encrypted communication....

too bad there's No Such Agency.

Hahahahaha (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892126)

First post! I win it! FP FTW

Re:Encryption? (3, Insightful)

MaceyHW (832021) | about 9 years ago | (#13892136)

The rule applies to VoIP providers such as Vonage that use a central telephone company to complete Internet calls. It also applies to cable and phone companies that provide broadband services. The companies must comply by May 2007.

Apparently not. I think the really interesting issue there is would be third party companies that were to provide certificate services for ad hoc encryption be subject to the requirement

The real question is... (5, Interesting)

2names (531755) | about 9 years ago | (#13892171)

if you encrypt your traffic and the FCC or some other Govt agency attempts/succeeds in breaking your encryption, could it ("they") be found guilty under the DMCA?

Re:The real question is... (0, Troll)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 9 years ago | (#13892247)


Re:The real question is... (2, Insightful)

LilGuy (150110) | about 9 years ago | (#13892253)

Very unlikely. Often times the ones who enforce the rules don't abide by them. Especially in this day and age when anyone can be considered a "national security risk". That's the only excuse they'd have to barf up to weasle out of any litigation.

Re:The real question is... (1, Interesting)

Mac Degger (576336) | about 9 years ago | (#13893633)

I agree with your sentiment that in the current administration, this is a very dangerous development, I'd say a land grab, really.

However, here at /. and elsewhere, we're always bitching about new laws being drafted to cover stuff which happens on the 'net, when there are perfectly sane and established ones which would cover the case. And here's just a situation like that, only the other way 'round. Wire-tapping is (if there is oversight to prevent abuse, checks and balances etc) something which law-enforcement needs. Any non-tinfoil hat type would agree to that. And that should apply to any instance, be it POTS or VoIP (or email, I'd say). Wiretapping is about intercepting communications between criminals, irrespective of the system used.

Now I can understand people being quite scared of the current US administration (what with the Guantanamo, we can put you away and no-one will ever hear from you again, AND we can torture you 'cause we say the Geneva convention doesn't apply to us government you have right now), but !!with a decent government and decent checks and balances in place!!, I personally find it rediculous that anyone could be against the tapping of VoIP/e-mail or whatever. It's how you catch criminals.

Note, however, that I'm fully for encryption; you really don't want your next door neighbour/copeting company to be tempted to read that open communication you're discussing your trade secrets over. But then a government would just have to outspend if they want to decrypt and read it...having to hand over keys is too insecure; encryption is secure so long as it's only governments which have the computing power to crack it.

Re:The real question is... (5, Informative)

Sloppy (14984) | about 9 years ago | (#13892399)

DMCA contains an exemption for Law Enforcement. []

IANAL, but I play one on tv... (2, Funny)

TiggertheMad (556308) | about 9 years ago | (#13892444)

if you encrypt your traffic and the FCC or some other Govt agency attempts/succeeds in breaking your encryption, could it ("they") be found guilty under the DMCA?

Yes, but you would only be allowed to take posession of all the Brittiny Spears mp3s that they have on their hard drives.

Re:The real question is... (0, Troll)

timeOday (582209) | about 9 years ago | (#13892888)

if you encrypt your traffic and the FCC or some other Govt agency attempts/succeeds in breaking your encryption, could it ("they") be found guilty under the DMCA?
Uh huh. Right after a cop gives you a speeding ticket, and you issue him one for catching up to pull you over. Good luck with that.

Re:Encryption? (0, Troll)

mholt108 (229701) | about 9 years ago | (#13892209)

The way they speak about it, tapping is just a matter of law. I thought my skype calls were safe .. is the encryption that easy to work around? Has anybody here done it?

Re:Encryption? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892271)

I have. But I'm not going to tell YOU how I did it. Also, your sister sounds hot...

Re:Encryption? (0, Troll)

Software Salesman (926461) | about 9 years ago | (#13892967)

Skype is a law unto itself. Remember that these are the guys who developed 'illegal' file sharing technology and don't feel it prudent to ever enter the USA. Skype port-hops in a way that makes it REALLY hard to detect. Check it for yourself by making a H.323 call, a SIP call and a Skype call and monitoring the results with something like Ethereal. SIP and H.323 both appear as calls - Skype never appears as a call. This is what pisses the FEDs off. Legal encryption can always be broken - this kind of shit is tricky. Notebooks out, plagiarists!

Re:Encryption? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 9 years ago | (#13892442)

Well, if we copy the UK law, then the way it will work is that you'll be forced to hand over your key, but you will also be prohibited from informing yourself that you did so. So if men in black ever show up and demand your key, be sure you don't suddenly change your behavior, or else they'll accuse you of tipping yourself off, and then you'll be held in contempt of court.

Re:Encryption? (1)

Dwonis (52652) | about 9 years ago | (#13892595)

If the men in black show up, they'll just "flashy-thing" you once you're done.

Re:Encryption? (2, Informative)

Jason Pollock (45537) | about 9 years ago | (#13892938)

If you use a private codec, you aren't going to be interconnecting with the PSTN. If you aren't interconnecting with the PSTN, you aren't covered by the wire tap rule.

They don't care if you and your friend Jeff write your own codec and use that.

Taps on VOIP? (1)

tyroney (645227) | about 9 years ago | (#13892045)

If the taps are on VOIP, what concern is it of the web? Slippery slopes don't count. Or is it possible to tap only VOIP, leaving other traffic alone?

Re:Taps on VOIP? (3, Insightful)

bypedd (922626) | about 9 years ago | (#13892147)

"The whole process of innovation on the Internet would be seriously damaged..."

That does seem a little overemphasized. I think the taps on VoIP does raise (again) the concern of what is the FCC's business. If I should at my neighbor over my fence, do I have to do it in such a way that is compliant with FCC's regulations? What if we decide to use tin cans connected with a string? When does it fall inside the FCC's four flags?

Furthermore, May 2007 isn't very far away for system-wide changes. So then it comes back to the triangle of manufacturing Quality - Price - Speed -- pick any two. If they say it's a requirement within 2 years, indrectly they may be demanding a chunk of revenues going into maintenance instead of expanding service or what have you. Either way, it doesn't seem like it will help consumers in the average case.

Re:Taps on VOIP? (3, Insightful)

ucahg (898110) | about 9 years ago | (#13892657)

VoIP is the web, in a way. It's just a different protocol. If you read the SIP standards, they are very much like instant messaging standards, so can the FCC tap instant messages too? And it's not that different from normal HTTP either, ultimately, so can they tap that? At what point is it under their juridiction? If you are continuously sending packets of voice? What about sending an entire recording at once? How is it different?

These are the questions that I believe were behind the point that it will ruin innovation.

Huh? (1)

HebrewToYou (644998) | about 9 years ago | (#13892050)

From TFA:

To meet the rule's requirements, Internet call providers would have to rewire networks at great cost, Morris said. In addition, there is fear the rule would stifle development of new technologies by placing more regulatory burdens on innovators.

Can someone explain to me (a) why they would have to rewire these networks and (b) how this would stifle the development of new technology? I must be dense...

Re:Huh? (2, Interesting)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 9 years ago | (#13892124)

Can someone explain to me (a) why they would have to rewire these networks and (b) how this would stifle the development of new technology? I must be dense...

Well, I'm just guessing, perhaps they don't mean to physically re-wire the networks but completely change the data flow.

For example, it's highly probable that for privacy concerns they specifically set everything up so nobody in the home office can listen in on any calls. It makes sense, as in case of a security audit they can say "we don't have the ability to eavesdrop, check our infrastructure if you doubt us."

With this ruling they may have to allow feds access to a hub or something that will allow them to intercept all traffic and listen in on both sides. Skype would be a real pain in the but as they supposedly encrypt their transmissions. They'd need access to everyone's keys.

But I'm just guessing here.

Re:Huh? (1)

temojen (678985) | about 9 years ago | (#13892294)

They'd need access to everyone's keys.

Or just the public key of law enforcement agency x and provisions so that any endpoint being tapped can flip a switch (invisible to the end user) and start transmitting all data to the wiretap server.

Re:Huh? (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | about 9 years ago | (#13892414)

Why not just tap into the phone/dsl/cable line near the house that is under survailence?

Re:Huh? (5, Informative)

temojen (678985) | about 9 years ago | (#13892229)

RTP and H.323 communications that do not have a PSTN endpoint are routed point to point. Wiretapping would require them to be routed through or multicasted to a central wiretap server (at least the ones that are being tapped).

Re:Huh? (1)

HebrewToYou (644998) | about 9 years ago | (#13892561)

Thanks, temojen.

That clears up my first question, but what about that innovation stifling bit?
Sensationalism on the part of Privacy Pundits and Mass Media?

Re:Huh? (1)

csirac (574795) | about 9 years ago | (#13894224)

I believe the concern is they have to "upgrade" to specific software or equipment. Not sure if they have an FCC approved wiretap patch for Asterisk...

Dupe (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892053)

Dupe! At least the stories didn't appear on the same page 15201&tid=158&tid=17 []

Re:Dupe (1)

Tetch (534754) | about 9 years ago | (#13893836)

> Dupe! At least the stories didn't appear on the same page

Yes they did - at least they did for me - they're on the same front page as I write this.

That's some pretty dismal editing :(

Weasel words, Ho! (5, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 9 years ago | (#13892055)

The privacy groups made their case saying taps would seriously hinder innovation on the web.

Can we STOP using that word? This is getting worse than "Synergy"! If you have a point, try to quantify it in a reasonable manner. For example, "Tapping VOIP would drive up costs, thus resulting in slower adoption in an otherwise emerging market."

"Innovation" is nothing more than a weasel word that get bandied about everytime someone wants to argue against something, but has no argument prepared.

So, for the sake of the Children, everything Holy, and the nerves of all of us in the tech industry, please STOP USING THAT WORD as a defense. Thank you, have a nice day.

Re:Weasel words, Ho! (2, Interesting)

fshalor (133678) | about 9 years ago | (#13892121)

Ohoh... we're (a campus) actually looking at rolling out an inhouse VOIP solution to save us money over the pots system.

The new policy is " for every network drop, put in a phone line" (so cat-5 and cat-3 ran to every wall box) and "for every phone line ran, run a network drop". (same) And this is now (increased) to , two cat-5's and one cat-3 per box.

The thing is, we have so much internal bandwidth that there's no sense paying for the phones they way we are. I mean, for the price of three phone lines per month I can drop a fresh multimode fiber into a core switch. (One time cost!).

We'll see how it goes. I'm hoping for the VoIP solution, since we'll be able to be a lot more flexible and move people and numbers around a lot more. Not to mention all the crap we'll get out of the pipes.


Re:Weasel words, Ho! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892201)

I find your lack of innovation to be most disturbing!

Re:Weasel words, Ho! (2, Funny)

Krach42 (227798) | about 9 years ago | (#13892297)

Your not wanting me to use the word "innovation" is stifling my innovative use of the word innovation!

Re:Weasel words, Ho! (2, Interesting)

Control Group (105494) | about 9 years ago | (#13892694)

1.8026175 × 10^12 furlongs per fortnight


Re:Weasel words, Ho! (1)

Krach42 (227798) | about 9 years ago | (#13892779)

First person to comment on it. Yep, it's c

Stop using "stop using"! (2, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 9 years ago | (#13892777)

OK, so we have innovation [] , indeed [] , intuitive [] , copy protection [] , boxen [] , turbo [] , cyber [] , and FLOSS [] ,

Got any other words, phrases, or acronyms we should stop using?

Re:Stop using "stop using"! (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 9 years ago | (#13892924)

Indeed. Turbo-boxen protected by intuitive use of TCPA copy protetion would make for an innovative new FLOSS cyber-platform. Just think of the synergy that could be harnessed through such strategic mergers of technology! :-P

Seriously, it's all about context. My humorous post was intended to point out the outright abuse of the term "innovation". It's fine when someone uses it as, "innovations like the new O(1) search method are changing the face of database technology." It's not okay when every yahoo (especially Microsoft) begins decrying, "You're stifling my innovation!" My only response to such nonsense is, "First you tell me *what* innovation you're speaking of, and then we'll find a way not to stifle it."

Re:Stop using "stop using"! (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 9 years ago | (#13893224)

Sorry, it's just that "stop using the word..." is looking like it could become the next troll meme.

"First you tell me *what* innovation you're speaking of, and then we'll find a way not to stifle it."

If I knew what my innovations would be in advance, they wouldn't be innovative.

Will my high-latency VOIP by tamper-evident avian carriers have to be trained to fly to a special government office for inspection before they are allowed to reach their intended destination?

Re:Weasel words, Ho! (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 9 years ago | (#13893602)

I agree, and may we add two additional weasel words, "rampant" and "piracy" to the list?


Read it again (0, Redundant)

dr_dank (472072) | about 9 years ago | (#13892069)

For the very first time [] .

Re:Read it again (5, Funny)

UOZaphod (31190) | about 9 years ago | (#13892105)

I don't like this special edition.

In the original, the FCC shot first.

DUPE ALERT!!! DUPE ALERT!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892082)

come on at least change the text of the thread header, or something!

Yes please (1)

dzafez (897002) | about 9 years ago | (#13892093)

Yes, everyone saying people in the EU are less free then those in the USA might please post here, after RTFA. After Posting your humble opinion, you may want to reconsider searching for more information about the wiretapping in Europe.

Thank you. I would be pleased to see some people to stop spamming /. with this topic over and over again with this stupid topic.

The facts here are simple (5, Insightful)

Work Account (900793) | about 9 years ago | (#13892106)

To "sit on a wire" anywhere you should need a probable cause and a warrant.

Anyone without this is simply hacking, which is illegal.

Re:The facts here are simple (5, Insightful)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 9 years ago | (#13892291)

To "sit on a wire" anywhere you should need a probable cause and a warrant.
If by should, you mean in a ideal world, or at least in a world more ideal than ours, then I fully agree with you that such things should be needed. Unfortunately they are not, unless the Patriot Act was recently repealed and no one told me.

Re:The facts here are simple (2, Insightful)

Rydia (556444) | about 9 years ago | (#13892469)

Still need a warrant from a federal judge, albeit in some cases a secret one. If you don't have one, you can go for the immediacy excuse, but then you have to explain later or get slapped. Federal Judges aren't monkeys, you know.

Re:The facts here are simple (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 9 years ago | (#13893020)

A Google("patriot act" wiretap warrant) led to this page [] , which says:
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) regulates the FBI's collection of "foreign intelligence" information for intelligence purposes. Under the Fourth Amendment, a Title III warrant to intercept a communication must be based on probable cause to believe that a crime has been or is being committed. This is not the general rule under FISA: surveillance under FISA is permitted based on a finding of probable cause that the surveillance target is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power, irrespective of whether the target is suspected of engaging in criminal activity. The USA PATRIOT Act expanded law enforcement authority to conduct searches and obtain communications under Title III, and also rolled back the already lax restrictions on the FBI's ability to gather information about individuals under FISA.
And from this page [] :
[...] the PATRIOT Act specifically lowers the threshold for obtaining a full collection warrant for Internet traffic. Instead of needing probable cause as required by Title III, the FBI now only needs to show that the information to be gathered is "relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation." That is a much lower standard than showing probable cause that a crime has been committed.
Clearly, probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occuring is no longer required. It appears that warrants are still technically needed but the requirements are so lax they make the need for a warrant a mere fig leaf of decency.

If Orwell were alive, he'd be rolling in his grave.

Re:The facts here are simple (1)

susano_otter (123650) | about 9 years ago | (#13893615)

Successful bank robbers are successful in part because they are careful to do their planning and preparation in ways that don't support the belief that criminal activity is occuring. That is, they game the system to ensure that the people charged with stopping them have no legal justification for doing so.

One question worth asking here is, is it beneficial to our society to give up earlier and more effective prevention of bank robberies in exchange for greater privacy and freedom for law-abiding citizens?

The answer to this question is generally an overwhelming "yes".

Support for the Patriot Act seems to come largely from people who believe that the "yes" answer is not as compelling when you alter the sceneario such that instead of robbing banks, the "bank robbers" are plotting to detonate nuclear bombs at crowded stadiums, or crash passenger liners into large office buildings, or mail anthrax to everybody in the tri-state area.

In principle, I wholeheartedly agree that the old "yes" answer isn't automatically appropriate to this new scenario.

Re:The facts here are simple (1)

DrJimbo (594231) | about 9 years ago | (#13894122)

I couldn't disagree with you more.

First, I can't believe that you really believe your facile, Hollywood fairy tale of the crafty bank robber. We have bank robbers in the region where I live. They are usually poor and desperate. The successful ones use a gun and a mask and a getaway vehicle. They aren't gaming any system.

Second, I know for sure that the people who championed the Patriot Act are the same people who now want to subvert the overwhelming will of the American people and legalize torture [] .

Third, the Patriot Act was rushed through a panicked Congress six weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Most members of Congress didn't have time to read it all, let alone analyze it carefully.

Fourth, my first post in this thread was to correct an apparent misconception that the government still needed probably cause to tap phone conversations. The fact that there is still a lot of confusion about what the Patriot Act really does, combined with the fact that it was rushed through Congress imply that part of the reason some people support it is because they don't really know what it does.

Fifth, the real debate over the Patriot Act is not about bank robbers versus terrorists. One real debate would center around whether provisions in the Patriot Act violate the 4th Amendment of the Constitution.

A better debate would center around Benjamin Franklin's prophetic:

They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
You would need to show that the provisions in the Patriot Act would actually be effective in preventing the Hollywood styled terrorist act you proposed. Whatever added safety is provided would then have to be compared with the very real threat of the Patriot Act being misused to stifle politic dissent.

History shows us that every police power that has been enacted has also been abused. In my opinion, the Patriot Act clearly violates the Constitution and is a very dangerous step towards the USA becoming a police state. The measures in the Patriot Act would have done nothing to help prevent the 9/11 attacks although it has already been used against non-terrorist political groups in the US. I think it must have been named for the Patriot Missile which was famous for never hitting its intended target.

Re:The facts here are simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13894154)

Let me give you a hint. If the USA is "becoming a Police State, then everywhere else in the ENTIRE WORLD is already a police state. Your second lie is that the adminsitration wants to legalize torture. What they want is to preserve the priveledge of being mean. *your* definition of torture seems to include anything that's unpleasent. Let me give you a hint. I put up with "offensive music" driving to work that our interrogators are not allowed to "victimize" WAR CRIMINALS at guantanamo. In other words. You're a cunt.

Re:The facts here are simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13894461)

If the USA is "becoming a Police State, then everywhere else in the ENTIRE WORLD is already a police state.

How is this different than "But Dad, all the other kids are doing it...." ?

Not good enough. Not nearly good enough

Re:The facts here are simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13894548)

Right on. If you throw your principles out the window the first time they're challeneged, that's pretty sad. We must fight the urge to be cowards.

It's a hell of a lot worse than making somebody listen to Britney Spears. FYI, I've been through multiple levels of SERE training. Nobody, and I repeat nobody should ever/ever have to undergo some of the things that we are now doing to uncharged and unconvicted people. Are we Americans or not?

I don't really care about the warm/fuzzy position. Torture simply doesn't work. From a utility point of view, any professional military interrogator will tell you: It. Just. Doesn't. Work. Period. Before long, you are told exactly what you want to hear. Then you get things like the recent NYC metro scare. Repeated over days. Elaborate. Self Consistent. And wrong. All it can do is breed more terrorists by justifying their (formerly) flawed assertions that we are evil hypocrites.

Re:The facts here are simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13894496)

Huh? What war criminals at Gitmo?

How many have been charged or prosecuted in any way?

Let me save you some time. 2.

That's roughly a 0.002 success rate.

So sing it with me, "Ameeerica, FUCK YEAH!"

Re:The facts here are simple (1)

susano_otter (123650) | about 9 years ago | (#13894553)

You're assuming that the liberties being given up are "essential" in the sense that Franklin used the term.

Do you have anything better than CNN to offer, in support of this assumption? It's obvious that Franklin didn't consider all liberties to be essential, since the government he endorsed certainly curtailed quite a few.

Re:The facts here are simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13893466)

This brings to mind a wiretapping case that came up during Prohibition. The police wiretapped the phonelines outside a man's house instead of his telephone and used the evidence they collected to arrest him. He sued and lost, the court ruling that because the phone lines where not inside the man's house, the tap was not unconstitutional or illegal.

Following the same logic, the police (or whoever is eavesdropping) could theorectially dip into the servers that handle VOIP and claim their actions were in bounds.

I can't for the life of me remember the name of the case. Anybody know?

What type of lawsuit? (1)

ryturner (87582) | about 9 years ago | (#13892113)

How do you file a lawsuit on the grounds that it will "seriously hinder innovation on the web"? It is not illegal to have a stupid rule. Maybe someone with more legal knowledge can clarify this for me.

Re:What type of lawsuit? (2, Insightful)

E-Rock (84950) | about 9 years ago | (#13892211)

No, stupid rules aren't illegal, but stuipd rules that will cause harm can be blocked. I didn't RTFA, but you can get an injunction that either prevents the stupid rule from being enforced or invalidates the rule altogether.

Speaking of Stupid Rules.... (2, Insightful)

pr0t0 (216378) | about 9 years ago | (#13893679)

Didn't the FCC just recently win the Brand-X case in the Supreme Court arguing that broadband was an information service and not a telecommunications service, therefore broadband providers were not considered common carriers and under no obligation to "open up" their lines to competitors?

Doesn't it seem at least on the surface, if not directly, contradictory for this agency to have any discussion regarding wiretapping as far as VOIP goes? Doesn't wiretapping only happen on communication services? Doesn't the 'IP' part of VOIP primarily use broadband?

If these two events are contradictory in nature, how can they possibly co-exist without everyone drawing the conclusion that FCC functions, at least in part, to create rules allowing large (or perhaps simply first-to-market) broadband providers to maintain an unfair advantage over smaller or late-comer competitors?

Is this evidence of the belief that fair competition does not exist in the United States? That you can only have as much justice and fairness as you can buy, bribe, and lobby for?

Unless I'm completely misinformed...which may be the case so I'll apologize now...but plesase don't let that stop you from hurling your flames of vitriolic righteousness.

Re:What type of lawsuit? (5, Insightful)

MaceyHW (832021) | about 9 years ago | (#13892252)

IANAL, but judging by the similar pattern of events with the "broadcast flag" it has to do with the fact that this is a regulation created by the FCC, not a law passed by Congress. FCC decisions can be challenged in court because the FCC has a specific, limited mandate and you can argue that it has exceeded it's authority.

Also, the "seriously hinder innovation" line is most likely a rhetorical tool more than the actual central legal argument of the case

Whenever I hear duping... (0, Offtopic)

aicrules (819392) | about 9 years ago | (#13892119)

I know my voip is wire tapped. I think CmdrTaco has a loopback on his dupe machine.

Now Thats funny! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892393)

I always thought CmdrTaco was just an incarnation of the Cookie Monster, stoned on php. If he starts using voip with cookies then I would worry! You can bet if /. every does become voip enabled someone will want to tap it! Effective cheap and widespread communication through voip is still a long way off thank GOD. Somehow just reading things like /. is enough!

Get the FBI to tap /. Editors (0, Offtopic)

RingDev (879105) | about 9 years ago | (#13892122)

That way maybe we can track these dupists ;)


Innovation? (5, Insightful)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | about 9 years ago | (#13892138)

What does innovation have to do with it? Aren't our constitutional rights more important than if companies can make money off something?

Re:Innovation? (0, Offtopic)

millennial (830897) | about 9 years ago | (#13892182)

You know, I'd be more inclined to agree with you if your name didn't imply grievous bodily harm.

Re:Innovation? (0, Offtopic)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | about 9 years ago | (#13892194)

I guess your not a girl.

Re:Innovation? (1)

keraneuology (760918) | about 9 years ago | (#13892582)

According to US Senator John McCain, R-AZ, no, money is more important that Constitutional rights.

"There's only one thing more important than money _ and that's lives" []

Quoted in the Washington Post, 10/20/05 in an article about a $3 billion dollar federal subsidy to ensure that the poor in this country can afford digital television. (There ain't enough money for bread, but there's enough for Beavis and Butthead).

A request for clarification to Sen. McCain's office was ignored. Other Senators refused to distance themselves from the remark.

Oh really! (-1, Flamebait)

millennial (830897) | about 9 years ago | (#13892157)

You mean they haven't completely reversed their positions since yesterday [] ? How shocking!

Re:Oh really! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892273)

mods are fucking idiots. flamebait: A message written with intent to offend/anger/enrage other persons, so that they will send a flaming message in reply.

It's not possible (4, Interesting)

MoogMan (442253) | about 9 years ago | (#13892166)

Well, if they had any fucking sense, they'd realise it wasn't possible. You can still (In the SIP/SDP case) send an arbitrary codec description over a call. The actual call is point-to-point.

Even taking into consideration the possibility of codec recognition and denying calls based on a restricted set of codecs, you could just place a "signature signal" at the start of the call - something relatively inaudible to the human ear - that triggers encryption etc. Maybe in the same way as Amateur Radioers have a blip at the start/end of speech.

Re:It's not possible (1)

garver (30881) | about 9 years ago | (#13892909)

If it's law, it'll be made possible. It'll be engineered that way by the law abiding and in this case, anyone that wants to make money from VoIP falls into the "law abiding" category. I'm talking about service providers, equipment manufacturers, and software vendors. Given the choice of breaking the law and protecting what should be your right to privacy, you'll lose.

I think what you're referring to are those that don't care about making money. Call them the "VoIP underground." But its worse than that. As soon as they organize, the government has something to go after. Open source projects count as organized. You'll be left with getting your renegade VoIP software from some kiddy in an IRC channel. Who knows what'll worms/trojans/nastiness will be in that code? Or you can writing it yourself. These are the people the FBI will never be able to stop. A small population and not ideal for the FBI, but I gather they're willing take what they can get easily and work on these deviants later. (Of course they're deviants! Why else would they be hiding?)

Re:It's not possible (1)

radionerd (916462) | about 9 years ago | (#13892963)

"Maybe in the same way as Amateur Radioers have a blip at the start/end of speech."

What blip would that be? Amateur Radio rules forbid encryption. Some Amateur radio repeater systems insert "beeps" to signal the end of transmissions, but generally serve no real purpose other than entertaining the system users. I've only been an active ham radio opperator for about 28 years, so as a newbie, I may simply have never have heard of these blips. Maybe you were thinking of that other service, Childrens Band, they like lots of beeps and sundry noises, but that entire service has no purpose at all, except to entertain the children.... er, users


CALEA is worse than you think (1)

jesup (8690) | about 9 years ago | (#13893559)

CALEA requires that the tap be undetectable, and able to set up effectively by flipping a virtual switch. Since RTP in VoIP can be point-to-point (i.e. untappable), and since tapping by routing a call through a proxy that could record the packets would be detectable (given a network sniffer), VoIP providers would have to route ALL calls through proxies just in case they might have to tap them. Realize they already had the power to ask for a subpoena for a tap, but that VoIP providers didn't have to engineer their network to make it easy and quick (or possible). Now they will have to. And it includes all the universities, who say it may cost them 5-10 BILLION dollars to comply.

This means added delay to all calls (lower quality), and extra expense for the VoIP companies (proxies and/or Session Border Controllers for all calls, and the associated bandwidth. For students, increased tuition (and not a small amount). Plus, part of why you don't want this done ever is that the easier it is technically to do, the more temptation there is to use this ability. Slippery slope and all that. The FBI/NSA/etc already tried to force OnStar to let them turn on the mic's in cars remotely as bugging devices; the judge stopped them because it would have disabled or otherwise interfered with safety features in OnStar (reporting of airbag deployments, etc).

Yes, you can make direct SIP/RTP calls without going through a VoIP provider. However, the FCC ruled that all 200Kbps and above broadband suppliers were ALSO required to comply with CALEA and make it possible for them to tap (all) traffic easily.

Can you say, huge blinking arrow saying "Hack this box"? Talk about a tempting target for malicious people, not to mention espionage.

As for encryption in a direct SIP call - it's hard (though not totally impossible) to avoid a possible MiTM attack in that case, unless you have communicated with that destination before, and cached their credentials, and it was before the MiTM attack was put in place. And if they realize you are in that situation (where you could detect MiTM due to credentials), then all they have to do is find some way to subvert/kill/etc one of the two endpoints. (Product recall, software update, cleaning lady knocked it over "by mistake", etc.) If you're using encryption via a VoIP provider, then who's verifying these certs you're accepting? Even if you did cache credentials, that only helps if they don't have a copy of the private cert subpoenaed from whomever provided it.

s/allow/require/ (5, Interesting)

frankie (91710) | about 9 years ago | (#13892193)

Aside from being a dupe, this submission is worded horribly. The FCC ruling does not allow VOIP-tapping; that's already allowed under standard warrant laws. The ruling is that VOIP providers should be required to make it just as easy to tap a VOIP call as it is to tap a land or cell call, by hooking into the phone company trunk. Given the wandering nature of internet packets, it would be intrusive, expensive, and possibly infeasible to add to an existing system.

Re:s/allow/require/ (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | about 9 years ago | (#13892240)

Hence the talk about innovation. I guess implementing these taps would be very expensive- don't tell me I should of RTFA!

Re:s/allow/require/ (2, Interesting) (745183) | about 9 years ago | (#13892324)

The ruling is that VOIP providers should be required to make it just as easy to tap a VOIP call as it is to tap a land or cell call.

"While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping..." - E. A. Poe

Is it naive to suppose that serious miscreants know how to evade eavesdroppers?

Re:s/allow/require/ (1)

kharchenko (303729) | about 9 years ago | (#13892810)

You'd think so, but then we've read about anyone from real terrorists [] to CIA operatives [] get nabbed through tracking plain ol' cell phones!

fail to see the big deal (1)

chinadrum (848282) | about 9 years ago | (#13892205)

I really fail to see the big deal. They wiretap analog phone lines now. This is just tapping digital lines. Whoopdie do, now they have to be able to send a call's packets to a second place to be listened to. They have control over their routing and should already be able to tell which customer data is coming from. Implimenting something that can sort and redirect seems pretty small. Isn't this part of what carnivore did anyway with all other data from a user?

Re:fail to see the big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892837)

Proplem is smart criminals will just use traceroute and see if they are being tapped. The whole point of wiretapping is that is covert in nature. It will be really difficult to tap voip once criminals learn the easy out. However this could be a good thing as it will keep voip respectable because criminals will know that it is not an easy cheap communication line. Double encripted voip using proprietary devices is another question all together. I am sure that the military and the government already employs this strategy.

Criminals with enough cash to buy these devices will be really hard to listen in on, one good way is if the government releases honeypot phony voipphone devices and uses tricks to lure know and wanted serious offenders into traps.

I have ho qualms about using tricks to trap some of the jerks that take advantage of our freedom to seriously screw people! Of course we have to be judicious and not malicious about these issues. Freedom does have a price and a good deal of common sense must be used to protect it.

Re:fail to see the big deal (1)

Detritus (11846) | about 9 years ago | (#13893172)

Think of it like banning any car that can go faster than 75 mph, because police cars have a maximum speed of 85 mph. They want to cripple and dictate the designs of data networks in order to make the life of a wiretapper easier. Since it was relatively easy to tap analog phone lines, they think they are entitled to similar ease-of-use in tapping digital voice and data networks.

Other "VOIP" sources? (2, Insightful)

jtroutman (121577) | about 9 years ago | (#13892341)

I'm wondering if this could affect other ways that voice communications get transmitted over the internet. Could they force tapping of voice transmissions over IM? How about conversations on Xbox Live? There are many ways other than Skype, Vonage, etc. to communicate with voice over the internet, would this affect all of them?

And yeah, I could go find the original posting to see if someone already answered this, but I'm here now, so...

Easy workaround (3, Interesting)

dtfinch (661405) | about 9 years ago | (#13892387)

Use open source secure VOIP software, preferably developed outside the US. If it doesn't go through a service provider, and it's encrypted, they won't succeed in tapping it without first hacking one of the endpoints, no matter what outrageous laws the FCC takes upon itself to pass.

VOIP and platform independence (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892435)

The one thing that didn't get discussed in this article has a lot to do with how the FCC will deal with VOIP schemes for "oddball hardware" like the macintosh.

Reading this link made me really think about something:

Why is it that people hate macintoshes?

Now, I don't want to put you off with my conclusion, but lack of space prevents me from fully developing my argument. I'll cut to the chase: People don't necessarily hate macs because of what they (macs) are, but because of the people who use them.

No computer is, in and of itself, useless. I'm sure macs have a value of their own, independent of whether or not I choose to "like" the mac. There are very smart people who design mac hardware/software, and far be it from me to denegrate their work!

However, think for a minute about the mac user community. These folks are, almost universally, so completely arrogant and superficial that they really stand out as being the singular most irriating people in computing. What they lack in logic and reason, they make up for in hubris and inanity.

Most macusers can't see this, but the rest of us sure can!

Did you get some sort of jolly from this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13892465)

Did you have a happy ending?

Honestly, what's the point of trolling?

He's right, you know. (1)

queef_latina (847562) | about 9 years ago | (#13892878)

I think it's time you took a long look in the mirror and ask yourself why you're 'losing contact' with your current friends faster than you're making new ones.

Macs are nice computers, but you're ruining them for everyone by being a 'mac user.'

Re:VOIP and platform independence (1)

mschuyler (197441) | about 9 years ago | (#13892475)

All that can be said equally of Linux users.

policy makers lack of understanding (4, Insightful)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | about 9 years ago | (#13892458)

Articles like this show that the people making laws do not understand what their talking about. It's very easy to encrypt your data (including voice conversations). If the US decides that all VOIP should be tapable/unencrypted, the bad guys can use a service based in a foreign country that doesn't force phone taps. They can then communicate. Or better yet, they can develop their own software to encrypt phone calls and would anyone notice? No way, it would just sounds like static or something. Sorry guys, but there's no way to block people from encrypting stuff and keeping their keys locked safely in their own possession. Unless of course, you make encryption illegal, which would be difficult to do, because the privacy hounds would never let something like that happen.

Encryption laws are sneaking in (1)

bitkari (195639) | about 9 years ago | (#13893470)

Unless of course, you make encryption illegal, which would be difficult to do, because the privacy hounds would never let something like that happen.

You'd think so, eh?

Unfortunately in the UK the police already have powers to demand that you hand over your keys/passwords to any encrypted data. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers bill [] the UK government can demand that you to hand over your encryption keys to the police.

Laws like these are getting slipped through very easily, with little counter from the opposition parties. With all of the hype around "terror" there is an even stronger drive to give more and more power to the police - the privacy hounds, at least here, are too quiet a voice to halt laws such as RIP when more media-friendly laws such as smoking and fox hunting seem to dominate. :/

Re:Encryption laws are sneaking in (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | about 9 years ago | (#13894260)

This is why you shouldn't make things decryptable with your key, which is the default in certain encryption software like PGP.

They can tap my line... (2, Funny)

Juanaplain (925700) | about 9 years ago | (#13892474)

because they'd only hear every 10th word out of my mouth. Comcast Cable can't seem to guarantee me enough upload bandwidth to... decent... VoIP... bullsh... back to... analog!

Re:They can tap my line... (1)

tom vendetta (923367) | about 9 years ago | (#13892538)

I ahead

Finally at home. (1)

tom vendetta (923367) | about 9 years ago | (#13892804)

finally boots up. Sorry about that post above, was at work, were to poor to afford anything faster than 28kbs. Anyway, as i was saying.... They can tap my line, as far as I care they can go and tap the damn thing cause they would only hear every 23 words I say. Once again, feel to hack me.

Time for a change (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 9 years ago | (#13893129)

I believe it was US Secretary of State Henry Stimson who said "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail."

Don't let VOIP be outlawed over stupidity. (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 9 years ago | (#13893405)

Yesterday we had a story about VoIP wiretapping that makes this one feel like a dupe. One of the comments [] on that story jokingly asked why VoIP users shouldn't have to deal with the same government abuses PSTN telephone users do. It was actually a valid question. They should be dealt with any differently?

Now remember that P2P networks have been fighting hard to gain any legitamacy becuase they are used so much for pirating music and movies. The RIAA/MPAA has been trying to get P2P networks themselves deemed illegal because of this.

Has it occured to anyone the bellco's can play just as stupid a card if VoIP is not tappable. They'll say VoIP is a haven for drug dealers and those plotting against America to communicate and will try to get all VoIP banned the same way recording industry stooges try to P2P banned.

Re:Don't let VOIP be outlawed over stupidity. (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 9 years ago | (#13893764)

"Has it occured to anyone the bellco's can play just as stupid a card if VoIP is not tappable. They'll say VoIP is a haven for drug dealers and those plotting against America to communicate and will try to get all VoIP banned the same way recording industry stooges try to P2P banned."

They won't have to bother with any type of scare or FUD campaign.

The way things are going, with the push on for laws and regulation that increase dramatically the expense of VOIP while at the same time decreasing the advantages, VOIP could easily be regulated and legislated out of existance without banning it outright.


You insensitiveP clod! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13893540)

International implications. (1)

ariosto007 (926492) | about 9 years ago | (#13893851)

Under the New Zealand Telecommunications Act, all telcos in NZ are required to have "interception capability" for all communications going through their networks, so as to assist law enforcement agencies who present a valid warrant. Other countries have similar laws. Does the US have any similar laws on its books? And for a product like VoIP, which is very easy to use internationally, will there be governments in other countries demanding VoIP providers provision similar capabilities within their products?
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