Concerns raised over plans for global wiretap

"Such a development would harm network security, result in more illegal activities, diminish users' privacy and stifle innovation"

Civil libertarians raised concerns Wednesday over moves to create an international standard for snooping on Internet telephone calls.

Internet telephony may not yet be widely adopted but commentators predict voice calls over the Net will compete, or even replace, standard voice calls within the next 3-5 years. According to civil liberties advocates the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is currently working on protocols to intercept such calls.

One group, Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties, sent an open letter to the IETF urging them against research on eavesdropping technology. "We believe that such a development would harm network security, result in more illegal activities, diminish users' privacy, stifle innovation, and impose significant costs on developers of communications," said Yaman Akdeniz, Director of Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties.

Caspar Bowden, director of Internet think tank, Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), expressed his concern over the development. "The IETF is not a formal organisation and people will question if they are the right people to invent a global wire-tap protocol for the Internet," he told ZDNet. With the majority of IETF's members from the US, Bowden is also worried that the US will be in control of an international protocol. "Questions need to be asked. What will their jurisdiction be, how will it be hack-proof, etc?"

The UK government is currently working on legislation to allow law enforcers to bug email and Internet traffic. The Interception of Communications Act (IOCA) has been criticised for breaching human rights. The government has not yet set a date for the proposed bill to become law.

They can see you... Read about how and why in Surveillance , a ZDNet News Special

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