Placing calls over the Internet has become much more economical than land-lines for many home and business users. That’s not bad on its own, but a recent proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology may have some implications regarding the privacy of these callers.
For instance, the proposal suggests methods that will “automatically identify the location” of all VoIP callers with handsets that connect to the carrier’s network. Some of the ways by which this ‘location identification’ can be made possible is via an “inventory” of each and every Wi-Fi access point in the US, conducting a “mapping and triangulation” of those access points, and creating an “access jack inventory” for wired VoIP users. Another proposed method even goes so far as to recommend that VoIP phones should have GPS receivers and transmit their exact latitude and longitude.
Although the initial argument for this proposal sounds logical enough, to enable emergency services to determine an Internet caller’s location when he or she calls 911 is the FCCs main argued reason, these steps indeed seem to step on the toes of one’s privacy regardless of why they should be implemented.
A more logical option would be to offer a paid 911 emergency service to VoIP users that request it, while still keeping VoIP open as a free market.
When a proposal like this arises, some obvious questions need answering.
Who will have access to the location information collected and kept by VoIP handsets?
How secure will this information be?
What rules will oversee police monitoring of one’s location?
You have until Monday to send the FCC your thoughts on this matter.