A Look At VoIP Wiretapping [7:46 pm]
A nice little discussion from Slate: Can They Hear You Now?
Why, then, couldn’t the feds tap any VoIP call by listening in on the line at the CMTS? Because some VoIP calls are routed, digitized, or encrypted in ways that law enforcement can’t decipher. Skype, which now boasts 7 million users, specializes in such encryption. The company’s system is designed to thwart potential eavesdroppers, legal and otherwise. [...] Skype, built by the same people who brought us Kazaa, is a totally distributed peer-to-peer network, with no centralized routing computers. (That’s possible in part because Skype calls can only be sent and received by computers—you can’t call a friend with an analog phone.) As a result, the company’s network looks more like a tangled spider web, and the packets that make up your voice in a Skype call are sent through myriad routes to their destination.
[...] VoIP technology is gaining ground so fast that it may be impossible for any government agency to dictate what these networks should look like. Skype, for instance, isn’t even an American company. It’s legally based in Luxembourg. Increased regulation on American carriers, which could lead to higher costs for consumers, is likely to push people further toward carriers like Skype, rewarding companies that seek permissive legal jurisdictions and punishing those that try to comply with domestic regulations. It’s this scenario that the Justice Department legitimately fears: Even though the Patriot Act has increased its ability to eavesdrop on Americans, companies like Skype are giving everyday people unprecedented freedom from government monitoring.