Lobby group pushes for Police email snooping

An international lobby group aims to convince New Zealand's government that it should implement laws requiring ISPs to allow law enforcement officers access to anyone's email. Set up in 1993 by the FBI to push for universal wiretap-ability in worldwide communications, the International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar now wants to tap the Internet.

An international lobby group aims to convince New Zealand's government that it should implement laws requiring Internet service providers (ISP) to allow law enforcement officers access to anyone's email.

The lobby group, the International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar (ILETS), is made up of police officers and security agents from a number of Western countries including New Zealand and Australia. Hong Kong is also included.

Set up in 1993 by the FBI to push building universal wiretap-ability into worldwide communications, ILETS now has its sights firmly set on tapping into the Internet and may have convinced a meeting of European ministers to adopt its latest plan.

ILETS plans to lobby New Zealand's government to introduce similar laws here, although the minister's press secretary, Jonathan Kinsella, says he has not heard of ILETS.NZ Police refuse to comment

"That sounds more like an operational matter. That would be handled by national headquarters."

New Zealand Police does have a representative in ILETS but he would not comment on ILETS or its role in New Zealand. "It's all supposed to be top secret. I'm surprised you got hold of the name even," he says. He describes ILETS as an "advisory group" and feels that monitoring of Internet communication is a "worldwide trend" of which New Zealand is only a part.

New Zealand law does not allow such interceptions to take place here and our strict privacy laws would also cause ILETS some trouble. However, the group will be pushing the issue at a political level.

Enfopol 19, the document currently before the European council of ministers, requires manufacturers and operators to build in "interception interfaces" to the Internet and all future digital communications systems. Under the scheme, European ISPs would be required to install monitoring equipment or software on site. The European governments would then have the capability to track an individual's "static and dynamic IP address . credit card number and email address", according to the leaked Enfopol 19 document, available at the Foundation for Information Policy Research's (FIPR) Web site (www.fipr.org).

FIPR, which describes itself as "an independent body that studies the interaction between information technology and society", is based in the UK and has been following ILETS since its cover was blown by the German online publication Telepolis. In the UK, opposition from ISPs is growing.

"Anything along the lines [of the ENFOPOL scheme] would probably have astronomical cost implications," says Keith Mitchell, chairman of the London Internet Exchange. "In the event such a scheme was ever implementable, the costs should be met by the enforcement authorities. Since the industry cannot afford it I doubt the public sector could." Mitchell doubts whether such a scheme would work on a technical level, something that Telecom is also concerned about.

"The amount of email going through Xtra's email servers is around five times the volume it was last year and it's accelerating," says spokesman Glen Sowry. Telecom has recently installed a new email server which is scalable up to a million users.

"At this stage you would have to take into consideration the sheer volumes of what you are trying to achieve."

European ministers are to meet on May 27 to discuss the adoption of Enfopol 19.

More information can be found at: www.heise.de/tp/english/special/enfo/default.html.

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