I’m confused about something and welcome someone to unconfuse me…
Last month, the United Arab Emirates announced the intention to ban Blackberry data usage because the UAE couldn’t monitor people using Blackberry connections:
The basic dispute involves BlackBerry’s use of satellites rather than domestic routers to send e-mail and text-message data, which makes it harder for a law-enforcement agency or other outside party to monitor. Also, the company encrypts the data and can’t even access it itself.
At the time, the U.S. State Department said the ban would set a “dangerous precedent.”
Today, however, the New York Times reports that federal officials want legislation with the same effect the UAE sought–to monitor all traffic.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
Now, there are differences–I would be unsurprised if the US laws (at least on the books) require more legal process for monitoring than do the UAE laws.
But another difference is probably the important one–that was them, this is us. As we grapple with new technologies, and their work through their impact on privacy and security, we should aim for consistency. I see how our officials’ first instinct is to think the UAE’s motives oppose freedom and privacy, while ours merely ensure security. I’m sure the UAE officials have a different instinct. Unless I’m missing something, we could look hypocritical, something we see here in the open Internet debate, and wisely recognized by senior officials.