Are My VoIP Calls Safe from Government Surveillance?
When news broke last month about “project PRISM”, many callers began to wonder if any form of communication was safe from government surveillance. Under PRISM, the NSA (National Security Agency) gathered information on millions of citizens’ phone calls.
According to Gen. Keith Alexander, the surveillance has prevented over 50 terrorists attacks since the September 11th attacks in 2001. The American public has been largely dichotomous about the surveillance. Some Americans are applauding the surveillance and consider it a necessity for the country’s safety. Other Americans are up in arms over the perceived intrusion of privacy.
For the Americans unhappy with the surveillance measures, there doesn’t seem to be a “safe” method of communication from government surveillance. However, VoIP calls, also known as Internet calls, are still largely private compared to traditional phone calls.
Why Are VoIP Calls Safer than Traditional Phone Calls in Terms of Surveillance?
VoIP phone calls are fairly safe from government ears due to their Internet structure. When a person makes a VoIP phone call to another VoIP user, their voice is broken into data packets that are sent over the Internet until it reaches its destination. When callers use traditional phone service, their voice is broken into analog electrical signals which are sent over telephone lines.
Voice data packets are often encrypted whereas analog voice signals are usually not encrypted. The VoIP providers themselves can break the encryption, but the government and outside parties, such as hackers, have a much harder time cracking the encryption patterns. This makes VoIP calls safe from most types of spying.
VoIP calls are also safer than traditional phone calls because VoIP is so mobile. Most VoIP users download mobile VoIP apps to their smartphones, tablets, or smartphones and take their cheap VoIP service with them on the go. This makes it harder to pinpoint the IP address of the VoIP caller, making it harder to track down the caller’s location.
Will VoIP Calls Always Remain Private?
It’s hard to say whether or not VoIP calls will remain as private as they are today. Earlier this year the FBI began to set forth a plan to expand the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to include Internet calling. Under CALEA, traditional phone providers must to build interception capabilities into their systems to make calls easier to wiretap. If the proposed plan does pass through Congress, VoIP providers will have to make their VoIP calls easier to wiretap.
The FBI is clear that they only want access to VoIP calls to investigate crimes. Many of the government’s requests for Internet users’ information and phone records come as part of criminal investigations into federal and state crimes, kidnapping, and potential terrorist attacks.
Just How Private is a VoIP Call?
VoIP calls are private enough that the military recently started using VoIP phone service earlier this year. Some hospitals and several large corporations use VoIP as well. In fact, one-third of businesses today trust VoIP enough to install VoIP phone systems into their offices.
VoIP calls are by and large the most secure means of a phone conversation today. And once more, VoIP calls are also among the cheapest means of conversation. Internet calling is vastly cheaper than traditional calling and often offers more free features. Cheap and secure? That’s why VoIP is the best ally for phone calls in 2013.
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