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Government Seeks to Fine Companies for Not Complying With Wiretap Orders

• Kim Ketter via

It isn’t often that communications companies push back against government requests to monitor customers and hand over information about them, but a government task force is seeking to make it even harder for companies to say no.

The task force is pushing for legislation that would penalize companies like Google, Facebook and Skype that fail to comply with court orders for wiretapping, according to the Washington Post. The cost of non-complying would be an escalating series of fines, starting at tens of thousands of dollars. Fines that remained unpaid after 90 days would double daily.

Unlike telecommunications companies that are required under the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to have systems that are wiretap-enabled, some internet communication methods — such as social networking sites and online gaming sites — aren’t easily wiretapped and are not required to enable the capability under CALEA. Companies that argue that they don’t have the means to enable wiretapping have avoided complying with court orders seeking real-time surveillance, the paper notes. The legislation is intended to force these companies into finding technology solutions that would enable real-time surveillance.

Microsoft reportedly applied for a patent in 2009 for a technology called Legal Intercept that would have the ability to secretly monitor, intercept and record Skype calls. Microsoft filed for the patent before it bought Skype in 2011.

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