Lawful Interception
20 September, 2012
Lawful Interception

Lawful interception (LI) is obtaining communications network data pursuant to lawful authority for the purpose of analysis or evidence. Such data generally consist of signaling or phone/Internet network management information or, in fewer instances, the content of the communications. If the data are not obtained in real-time, the activity is referred to as access to retained data (RD).In other words your home phone in Tbilisi or elsewhere in the world as well as mobile phone could be tapped in case

you are conducting illegal actions but this lawful interception should be authorized by legal authorities.

There are many bases for this activity that include infrastructure protection and cyber security. In general, the operator of public network infrastructure can undertake LI activities for those purposes. Operators of private network infrastructures have an inherent right to maintain LI capabilities within their own networks unless otherwise prohibited.

Under some legal systems, implementations – particularly real-time access to content – may require due process and receiving proper authorization from competent legal authorities – an activity that was formerly known as “wiretapping” and has existed since the inception of electronic communications.

With the legacy public switched telephone network (PSTN) like city of Tbilisi phone network, wireless, and cable systems, lawful interception (LI) was generally performed by accessing the mechanical or digital switches supporting the targets’ calls. The introduction of packet switched networks, soft switch technology, and server-based applications the past two decades fundamentally altered how lawful interception is undertaken. In the United States, two Federal statutes apply to half of the lawful interception. The other half occur pursuant to local law. The 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, Title III pertains mainly to lawful interception criminal investigations. The second law, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, as amended by the Patriot Act, governs wiretapping for intelligence purposes where the subject of the investigation must be a foreign (non-US) national or a person working as an agent on behalf of a foreign country. The Administrator of the U.S. Courts annual reports indicate that the cases are related to illegal drug distribution, with cell phones as the dominant form of intercepted communication.

During the 1990s, as in most countries, to help law enforcement and the FBI more effectively carry out wiretap operations, especially in view of the emerging digital voice and wireless networks at the time, the US Congress passed CALEA (The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) in 1994. This act provides the Federal statutory framework for network operator assistance to LEAs (Law Enforcement Act) in providing evidence and tactical information. In 2005, CALEA was applied to public broadband networks Internet access and Voice over IP services that are interconnected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) like Tbilisi city phone network. Most countries worldwide maintain LI requirements similar to those Europe and the U.S., and have moved to the ETSI (European Telecommunication Standards Institute) handover standards. The Convention on Cyber crime requires such capabilities.

Russian lawful interception system is called SORM which stands for (the System for Operative Investigative Activities).The SORM endowed agencies include: the tax police; the Interior Ministry police; Federal Protective Service; border patrol and customs.

Georgia as an ETSI member fully complies with lawful interception requirements.

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