From the WaPo:
A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Facebook and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort.
Driven by FBI concerns that it is unable to tap the Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals, the task force’s proposal would penalize companies that failed to heed wiretap orders — court authorizations for the government to intercept suspects’ communications.
Some companies have been able to resist FBI wiretap orders simply by complaining that they don’t have the means available to easily collect the data. The FBI doesn’t like that answer. Apparently, they think internet companies have a responsibility to design their networks and equipment in a way that facilitates easily passing subscriber’s private communications over to the feds. To encourage them to do this, they want to impose escalating fines on companies that drag their feet.
Instead of setting rules that dictate how the wiretap capability must be built, the proposal would let companies develop the solutions as long as those solutions yielded the needed data. That flexibility was seen as inevitable by those crafting the proposal, given the range of technology companies that might receive wiretap orders. Smaller companies would be exempt from the fines.
How thoughtful of them. They could tell them exactly how they need to do it, but instead they’re being nice guys and letting companies figure it out for themselves. Of course, if the government take a heavy-handed approach, it could possibly generate a negative public response. In other words, government officials are never a “nice guys”. They are always thinking about themselves.