Congress is being encouraged by FBI Director James Comey to update current laws that govern how your encrypted information is handled. Comey wants Congress to add new language to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that will allow the government more access to online correspondence.

Currently, the act has phone companies create their systems with a wiretapping capability. With that function permanently in place, government officials waste no time and are able to execute wiretaps as soon as the order is issued.

But Comey hopes to have the law extend to other methods of communication online. Phones are not being used the same way they were when the law was originally passed. Since that time, much of people’s communication has shifted from phone calls to things like Facebook messages. Comey believes this change has “created a significant public safety problem.”

Tech Companies Making It Harder for Law Enforcement

The difference between communicating online instead of over the phone may not seem that complex, but there is a bit more nuance to the problem. While phone companies have had this law in place for some time, online platforms have no mandate to create such an availability to the government.

While phones are generally utilized for instant communication, online we both communicate and store information about ourselves. With the help of social media outlets like Twitter or Facebook, authorities would be able to gain more information than ever before.

With so many new developers entering the market, it’s difficult and time consuming to track down the provider and have them then give the information to the authorities. In fact, some companies build their  systems so they cannot gain access to their user’s information even when asked.

This can prove to be problematic for officials who are legally allowed to obtain information on communications when related to a court order. These closed systems would prevent officers from gathering information they deem necessary.

All of this could become a moot point if Comey (and those like him) can change the laws that govern the amount of privacy we have online, but should they have this kind of access? If you’re worried about the safety of your online information, talk to Texas criminal defense lawyer James P. Whalen about how you can best protect youself.