Coming Soon to Your Internet Connection: Wiretapping

As Americans move increasingly to the Internet, federal spooks are being left behind.

It's harder than ever for the government to wiretap Americans' conversations, since we're increasingly communicating via email rather than telephone.

Although companies like AT&T have built systems to record their customers' phone calls and pass them along to federal agencies, including one such facility located right here in San Francisco, law enforcement officials want to keep tabs on our online activities as well.

If they get their way, Congress will require that all online communications, from Facebook to Blackberries, be capable of being wiretapped. The FBI spends about $9 million a year on programs to help Internet companies comply with wiretapping requests.

Proposed measures for companies include mandatory descrambling technology for encrypted communication, enhanced interception capabilities, and even physical offices dedicated to overseeing that interception. It's unclear how these mandates would affect software like Tor, which allows users to anonymize their Internet activity to avoid identification.

America isn't the only country to come up against this issue. Recently, the company that manufactures Blackberries has clashed with India's government over law enforcement's desire to track customers' conversations.

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