Facebook.  Skype.  Smart phones.

Most Fairfield students have one or all of the three, but might not realize that soon the government could be looking into your text messages, wall posts, photos and other daily conversations.

President Obama plans to submit a bill to congress next year that will force Internet providers, including smart phones and social networking sites to allow government more access to online communication.

With smart phones and social networking sites becoming two of the most popular means of communication, and telephones becoming almost obsolete, the United States government sees the Internet as a new national security threat.

For some, like the general counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Valerie Caproni, the national security oversight of Internet providers should have happened years ago.

Caproni believes that adding an Internet wiretap is not expanding authority, but rather maintaining an authority that has existed ever since the 1994 Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act.  The law gave the government rights to wiretap phones during the advancement from landline phones to digital cell phones.

Meghan Cox ‘14 also agrees that wiretapping Internet communication devices is not infringing on any existing laws.

“I don’t have a problem with the government wiretapping the Internet.  I don’t have anything to hide so if it will help keep Americans safe, I think they have the right to do that,” she said.

Others, however, believe that Caproni is wrong and that wiretapping corporate-owned companies like Facebook, Apple, Research in Motion and Skype have been wrongly targeted.

Fairfield University Communications professor David Gudelunas claims that allowing access to corporate technologies goes both ways.  While U.S. intelligence agencies may be able to use the “holes” to spy on suspected terrorists, terrorists can just as easily access the “holes” and cause harm.

Gudelunas said, “Unlike other communication technologies that are already subject to wiretap laws, the new communication technologies, including the Internet, are decentralized raising all sorts of complex technological and ethical questions as to how, when and by whom our individual and private communication can be breached.  Once you open up these networks, it can become a scary situation that can cause more harm than good.”

Additionally, Fairfield University Journalism professor Tommy Xie said, “I believe that she [Caproni] failed to recognize the enormous differences between cellular networks, which are domestic and completely corporate-owned, and the wild Internet where individual intelligence at the global scale serves as the very foundation of its innovative energy.”

Xie also remarked that government surveillance almost always lags behind technology and wiretapping corporate-owned communication software targets average citizens rather than terrorists.

“It’s hard to imagine any terrorists, however unsophisticated they might be, using corporation-made communication software while knowing that they are being wiretapped. Many other options, such as open-source messaging programs (developed by programmers worldwide) that use impossible-to-crack encryption, will make the new law obsolete the moment it rolls out.  Therefore, average citizens, rather than terrorists, will end up being the fish under the cast of such surveillance,” said Xie.

The open-source messaging programs Xie mentions are also known as peer-to-peer networks, and pose a similar threat to U.S. national security as social networking sites and smart phones since not only terrorists but also government employees use them.

Peer-to-peer networks are a network of computers configured to allow certain files and folders to be shared with every connected computer or with selected users, according to PC Magazine.

A basic example of a peer-to-peer network is LimeWire. Terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda use similar peer-to-peer systems to store information in databases and to circulate instructions pertaining to the unconventional style of war they wage.

Technologically, Al-Qaeda uses surprisingly basic techniques to organize its members. Its leaders make an effort to avoid such popular lines of communication like social networking sites and cell phones for fear of being easy targets of U.S. intelligence, according to Wired.com.

On the whole, U.S. intelligence has always been on the defensive in terms of cyber terrorism.  By creating more defensive strategies through wiretapping Internet communication devices, it may be missing the goal of cyber warfare.

In the end, the government must decide whether it is worth it to spend tax payer’s money to spy on social networking sites and smart phones or channel resources to the labyrinth of peer-to-peer networks where terrorists hide.

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