Federal Communications Law Journal

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Publication Date


Publication Citation

64 Federal Communications Law Journal 371 (2012)


Criminal use of the Internet to circumvent traditional government phone wiretaps has inspired the Obama Administration to create a proposal to expand the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act ("CALEA"). CALEA was passed in 1994 to regulate telephone and broadband companies to ensure compliance with standards to enable government wiretapping. The proposed amendment of CALEA would allow the government to require all communications service providers to meet technical standards necessary to comply with a wiretap order. The expansion of CALEA would likely widen its scope to social networking sites, instant messaging, gaming consoles that allow conversation among multiple players, and to word processing software that allows communication through Internet access. The unique architecture of the Internet lends it to particular vulnerabilities with the consequence that an expansion of CALEA to all Internet communications could create problems regarding the innovative nature of the Internet, national security, free speech, and privacy. This Note will examine the competing interests related to expanding CALEA and will weigh the potential benefits and consequences of CALEA. The Note concludes that substantially more information is needed to justify a change of the law.