UK Negotiating For Ability to Serve Wiretap Orders to US Companies

Can UK authorities serve wiretap orders to US companies? That is what is reportedly being negotiated between UK and US authorities.

The US may be known for highly questionable wiretapping policies, but even by American standards, this may raise a few eyebrows. According to USAtoday (via Slashdot) UK authorities are negotiating with US authorities over the possibility that UK authorities can directly serve wiretap orders to US telecommunication companies. From the report:

The talks are aimed at allowing British authorities access to a range of data, from interceptions of live communications to archived emails involving British suspects, according to the officials, who are not authorized to comment publicly.

The negotiations were first reported Thursday by the Washington Post.

Under the proposed plan, British authorities would not have access to records of U.S. citizens if they emerged in the British investigations.

Congressional approval would be required of any deal negotiated by the two countries.

One of the U.S. officials said the talks were necessary because of the increasing immediacy of developing criminal enterprises and potential terror plots that are playing out on various communications platforms around the globe.

The negotiations didn’t go unnoticed. According to Broadcast & Cable, the New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) expressed outrage over the plans:

“The idea that the U.S. government would allow wiretapping inside the United States by a foreign country’s national security authorities under legal standards that are far lower than what is required of our own police, is a horrible betrayal of our constitutional principles,” said OTI director Kevin Bankston “I can only expect that our founders, who wrote the Constitution that this deal disregards, are rolling in their graves.”

OTI said Congress should press the White House to rethink that plan. “We call on lawmakers who care about privacy—both from the left and the right—to tell the Obama Administration that they will not stand for it,” said Bankston.

The move has also caused some to suggest that this is yet another move to erode sovereignty.

Already, there are suspicions that foreign intelligence agencies are spying on US citizens when it became unfeasible for national spies to legally wiretap those people themselves. US intelligence agencies, in turn, do the same thing in other countries to help out their international counterparts.

One thing is for sure, stories like this really put into perspective the state of privacy rights today.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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