As if PRISM wasn’t enough, now the US government is publicly pressuring tech companies (internet service providers, telecommunication companies, etc.) to install “port reader software” that would allow the FBI to access encrypted data which the agency’s legal team claims that it has legal rights to do so under the Patriot Act.
Providers such as Verizon and AT&T are publicly refusing to install the port reader software but it is unclear that if carriers are actually resisting due to privacy concerns or just acting innocent to look sympathetic to their customers. For all we know, they might have already installed the software.
An FBI spokesman claims that the agency is legally allowed to “collect metadata” — which CNET refers to as “IP addresses, e-mail addresses, identities of Facebook correspondents, Web sites visited, and possibly Internet search terms as well” — from providers, as this could help solve legal cases. He went on and said that the agency will only use this technology when providers’ technology is unable to provide what they need:
“In circumstances where a provider is unable to comply with a court order utilizing its own technical solution(s), law enforcement may offer to provide technical assistance to meet the obligation of the court order.”
Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he is concerned about what port reader software can do and is fearful “that the boxes are secretly storing something, or that they’re doing more than just simply allowing traffic to sift through and pulling out the routing information.”
The real truth? We probably will never know.