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Online wire taps on the way?

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The FBI and other US police agencies will soon be able to tap your private VoIP conversations if a ''tentative'' Federal Communications Commission ruling goes through.

"By a vote of 5-0, the FCC said voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, providers should be subject to the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which ensures that law enforcers will be able to keep up with changing communications technologies," says a Reuters report.

Or, "The 5-0 vote by the FCC is a major step toward imposing thousands of pages of controversial regulations designed to give police and spy agencies backdoor access to all forms of high-speed Internet access, including cable modems, wireless, satellite and broadband over power lines," says ZDNet, going on to quote commissioner Kathleen Abernathy as saying there''s, "no higher priority than promoting national security.

"All of us are in favor of doing all we can to assist law enforcement."

The ruling doesn''t affect other regulatory questions surrounding VoIP service, such as how it should be taxed, and, "Our tentative conclusion, while correct, is expressly limited to the requirements of the CALEA [Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act] statute and does not indicate a willingness on my part to find that VoIP services are telecommunications services," FCC chairman Michael Powell says Reuters.

But, both stories point out, police requests to extend CALEA to commercial "push to talk" services offered by wireless providers were turned down permanently.

The "push to talk" ruling is final, but the FCC "will accept further public comments before making its ruling on VoIP final," says Reuters.

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