Milking the Internet surveillance cash cow
"Heightened Awareness" Boosting Sales
But how can Cisco sell CALEA compliance to cable companies when CALEA doesn't yet cover them? They're following the lead of CableLabs, a standards-setting body which has been working for several years on its PacketCable initiative, which defines standards for device interoperability in regards to communications services delivered using IP. PacketCable also includes an Electronic Surveillance Specification, which includes data on CALEA compliance. Although not yet adopted by the federal government, this spec is being used by companies who want to sell broadband products that are as close to being "CALEA compliant" as possible.
VeriSign's NetDiscovery service allows carriers to outsource the processing of all court order requests simply by establishing what the company calls a "secure" connection to its servers. Raj Puri, VeriSign VP of Communications Services, said, "This is a natural extension of our services as a provider for multiple wireline and cable providers. We have the infrastructure in our network that providers need to be compliant [with CALEA]." And, he added, "We are involved with standards-making and the FCC. So we've got a full solution for providers."
In 2002, VeriSign partnered with a company called Verint on NetDiscovery. Verint markets devices like STAR-GATE and RELIANT, both of which are designed specifically to assist with the lawful interception of data from broadband providers as well as telecoms. As VeriSign goes full-bore into the CALEA compliance market, Verint stands to do well with this partnership.
And there's no doubt that the current furor over CALEA is bringing in new customers for companies like VeriSign, as well as its partners and competitors. "This FCC thing has heightened awareness. We have seen our sales activity increase over the past several months," VeriSign's Puri reported. Fiducianet's Warren has seen a similar trend. "[The FBI petition] has brought a lot of attention to this issue which helps our business," he said. "Carriers look at whether they're compliant and then they turn to vendors [like us] to get it done efficiently."
What the broadband surveillance business boom makes clear is that the FCC doesn't need to approve the FBI's petition for CALEA to begin affecting broadband carriers. Corporate interests are already making the FBI's wishes come true.
Warren explained that his days with the FBI make him certain that the Bureau doesn't really think the FCC will give them what they want in their petition. Instead, he believes the FBI is angling to make their case before Congress next year, when the sunset provisions on the Patriot Act go into effect. "If Bush is re-elected, Congress will be primed for this," he said. "Expectations for privacy are being lowered right now. They'll have law enforcement behind them, and with congressmen and senators up for re-election, they'll feel pressured to have this in place to make up for what they'll lose when the sunset provisions go into effect. But," he added, "if Bush is defeated, this could go south."
Annalee Newitz is a writer in San Francisco who lives at www.techsploitation.com.