United States law enforcement and security officials are planning to ask Congress to mandate that all devices that use the Internet to provide two-way communication – whether they be phones, websites or applications – have backdoors allowing for wiretap access if so requested. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration will submit a bill to Congress next year asking for this requirement. This will mean that all your Internet-enabled devices – your iMacs, MacBook Pros, your iPhones, your iPads, and even your iPod touches – and the software they use to communicate will be liable to be sniffed by the US government.
It’s not clear how this will be implemented, how any encryption used for communications will be dealt with, or how much work this would involve for software and hardware providers. Will those outside the US have to comply with such regulations, if their software is sold in the US, even over the Internet? What about small developers – will they have the same level of compliance requirements as large developers? There is also the risk that hackers can take advantage of any such backdoors that are available.
For now, this bill is in its early stages, but it could have major implications for the computer industry in general. We’ll be watching as this plays out.