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Aswath Rao on CALEA

I’ve been exchanging some email with fellow blogger Aswath Rao on the whole CALEA issue.  I wanted to share an excerpt from a particular message from Aswath with the rest of the blogging community, and so without further ado, here it is.  This is written in response to my post from yesterday.

In any event, I am convinced that intercept will be required in IP as well. So I feel it is better that we advice the political leaders about the correct way (technically) it should be done. For example, in PSTN CALEA, DTMF tones are included in CII. Apparently, the reason DTMF tone is treated as CII because it could be used as part of two-stage dialing and the LEAs would like to know the called party’s number. But this could be avoided in PSTN with voice based dialing system. So PSTN itself can avoid DTMF tones. So there is no need to require this in IP Communications. More importantly, we have to be true to the layers. Accordingly, DTMF, if it goes in the media it should be intercepted at the ISP as CC and if it goes in the SIP message then it should be done by the VoIP provider as CII. I really hope that the IP community approaches the problem this way rather than questioning the fundamental rights issue. For it will be a losing battle based on precedence and then we may end up with a worse solution and an unnatural one.


Aswath is advocating a very rational approach, and recognizes the necessity to engage the regulatory bodies, rather than to fight them.  I hope that the IP community does that, especially in the US, and especially with the FCC.  Smart engineering people will be needed to ensure that the solution adopted is a good one. In an environment where the US Patriot Act is considered good legislation, it will take finesse to ensure that the goals of lawful intercept legislation don’t compromise the advantages of IP for communications.

I’m not going down that path, yet.  Here in Canada, we’re not quite as fearful of terrorism as the US, and we have very strong privacy laws, which are worth preserving.  Just visit any Canadian web site, for instance, and you’ll see they all have a published privacy policy — it’s the law.  I would hate to see these rights trampled in a mad rush to implement a wiretapping law.  So, for the time being, I will be writing letters to members of Parliament, barking about the issues on my personal soapbox (Saunderslog) and generally being a bit of a pain in the rear to elected officials.  Privacy is worth preserving.

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