Court Rules Net Wiretapping Legal

A U.S. appeals court upheld the government's authority to force ISPs to give access to their networks for surveillance purposes, rejecting on Friday a petition to overturn a decision that mandated their compliance with federal wiretapping laws.

Such compliance was mandated by the FCC, who said companies had until May 14, 2007 to make the necessary changes.

Opponents objected to the policy as needless surveillance, especially in light of the recent revelations of the Bush administration's warrantless domestic wiretapping program. The law was appealed by a group of universities and libraries.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed, saying that the requirement was a "reasonable policy choice." Supporters of the law point out that giving criminals a loophole could allow them to use the Internet in an attempt to avoid being tracked. The law would apply to public networks only.

Furthermore, the court ruled that even though information services are to be exempt from wiretapping, and the FCC considers the Internet such a service, the agency had the authority to apply the rules differently to the Internet.

The ruling was not unanimous, however, as one of the judges called the decision "convoluted." In his dissent, Judge Harry Edwards said that the FCC had abandoned the definition of an information service without leaving a new one in its place.

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