Thursday, September 29, 2005

FCC: Law Enforcement has Veto Power Over Software

Absolutely amazing. Is anyone going to reign in the FCC ever? Where do they get off thinking they have any say in software? Not only that, but how do they plan to enforce this? Strip away a few more civil liberties?

This just makes me think even more of the corruption I've been seeing everywhere lately. A government agency has ruled that another government agency has the power to dictate what you can and cannot run on your computer. You know, if they think you need to run it in order to assist them.

What happened to the government serving the people?

The Federal Communications Commission thinks you have the right to use software on your computer only if the FBI approves.

No, really. In an obscure "policy" document released around 9 p.m. ET last Friday, the FCC announced this remarkable decision.

According to the three-page document, to preserve the openness that characterizes today's Internet, "consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement." Read the last seven words again.

The FCC didn't offer much in the way of clarification. But the clearest reading of the pronouncement is that some unelected bureaucrats at the commission have decreeed that Americans don't have the right to use software such as Skype or PGPfone if it doesn't support mandatory backdoors for wiretapping. (That interpretation was confirmed by an FCC spokesman on Monday, who asked not to be identified by name. Also, the announcement came at the same time as the FCC posted its wiretapping rules for Internet telephony.)

Nowhere does the commission say how it jibes this official pronouncement with, say, the First Amendment's right to speak freely, not to mention the limited powers granted the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

What's also worth noting is that the FCC's pronunciamento almost tracks the language of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Almost.

But where federal law states that it is the policy of the United States to preserve a free market for Internet services "unfettered by federal or state regulation," the bureaucrats have adroitly interpreted that to mean precisely the opposite of Congress said. Ain't that clever?

Posted by Declan McCullagh

Posted by crimnos @ 8:02 AM