FBI frustrated by private sector telcos

FBI agents are frustrated because private companies are getting in the way of their snooping – and are seen to be holding back implementing more sweeping surveillance of the web.

A CNET report has revealed the FBI has sought Homeland Security’s help in discovering cases that were “negatively impacted” by private companies which delayed investigations either inadvertently or did not immediately bend over to surveillance requests by the police. 

CNET’s report cites Cricket Communications, where federal authorities were irritated that the company allegedly hindered an investigation because the network was facing technical problems. These got in the way of a wiretap and location tracking.

Cricket told CNET that if requested disclosure is lawfully permitted, it hands over information to the authorities, but if not, it denies the request. 

The FBI’s anxiety about the efficiency of its data collection is part of a wider plan to appeal for major web companies to install back doors solely for the use of government surveillance, known as Going Dark. 

In a report acquired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Homeland Security acknowledged that other mobile and broadband companies had also caused problems for data gathering, including T-Mobile, Comcast and MetroPCS.

In Honolulu, Homeland Security whinged that there were delays of up to four months from Cricket and T-mobile after subpoenas had been issued. The Phoenix office, meanwhile, noted a large number of its targets were using Mexican Nextel phones.

Homeland Security also moaned that Comcast dragged its heels in replying to a customs summons because FBI agents wanted connection records, though they did not specify customer IP addresses.

One company the FBI will not have to worry about is Microsoft, which has been getting on the Federales’ good side by financing ‘fusion centres’ – hubs were the various tentacles of US surveillance collaborate and share whispers.