Just in case you werent paranoid enough about privacy and security on the Web, a CNET report has revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is pressuring major Internet communications firms to build in backdoors that would allow the bureau to conduct wiretapping investigations. The report said the FBI fears its ability to conduct surveillance as more users employ Web-based communication and messaging services to talk to each other.
The news is unlikely to go down well with Internet freedom groups, which are already alarmed by government proposals to regulate and monitor the Internet. Some argue that building in such a backdoor would be a time-consuming and complex process. “New methods of communication should not be subject to a government green light before they can be used,” Ross Schulman, of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said in the report.
The report also mentions any wiretapping would require a court order before it could be initiated. What the FBI is proposing is an amendment to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, which would require communications platforms like Facebook and Web email programs like Gmail and Yahoo to build FBI-accessible backdoors into their services, the article said.
Privacy is already a major concern for social networking sites like Facebook, which counts a little more than 900 million users worldwide and more than 150 million users in the U.S. According to a recent Consumer Reports State of the Web survey, nearly 13 million U.S. Facebook users do not use, or are not aware of, the sites privacy controls, potentially exposing themselves to a variety of Web-based and real-world dangers. Only 37 percent of users say they have employed the sites privacy tools to customize how much information apps are allowed to see, according to the survey.
While some privacy or security issues arise from poor choices Facebook users themselves make, other problems can stem from the ways the company collects data, how it manages and packages its privacy controls, and the fact that users data can wind up with people or companies with whom they did not intend to share, the report said. Some users might be surprised to know that Facebook gets a report every time they visit a site with a ‘Like’ button, regardless of whether or not they click on that button, have a Facebook account or are even logged in.