Remember how people made fun of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for banning Blackberries because RIM refused to allow them to control and monitor their users’ online activities? Well, the Obama administration is going to submit a bill that would require RIM and every other company providing communications software to include loopholes that enable the US to tap into them as well.
A legal mandate that requires peer-to-peer communications to be subject to monitoring will essentially kill it off. Likewise, software that uses public key encryption in the client would also have to be fundamentally changed in order to comply.
And, of course, people with a clue will always be able to encrypt their communications so that they can’t be easily monitored, through the use of open source software that can be made illegal but can’t be eradicated.
The New York Times article linked above is very good, and covers most of the obvious problems with this legislation. You should also read Glenn Greenwald’s post on the subject.
What really irritates me about this is that the Obama administration is supposed to be more technically savvy and pragmatic than its predecessors. I’m sure there are plenty of smart people in the administration who know everything there is to know on this topic. So why push for this legislation? I have a theory, but I’m not even going to bother to write it up, because it’s not important. This legislation is an obviously bad idea and wandering around in the forest of systems theory doesn’t change that. As an activist, my role in the system is to attack the government for taking action that I disagree with. I’ll leave the role of government apologist for other people.
Update: Be sure to read Declan McCullagh’s take on the proposed legislation.