Wiretapping has long been a hot topic, with proponents on both sides of the issue making valid arguments. One the one hand, there are legitimate privacy concerns, while on the other, wiretapping has become essential for law enforcement agents around the world in catching criminals.
In countries where the laws regarding wiretapping are clear, there’s less of an issue, but in countries with vague or subjective laws and standards, the situation is much more complicated.
Take Uruguay, for example, where dozens of indictments against members of organized crime may get overturned due to unclear legal standards for the approval of a wiretap application.
While in most modern democracies, courts require substantial cause for suspicion before approving the use of a wiretap, in Uruguay, police can request communication surveillance at any time. More accurately, Article 212 of the Uruguayan Penal Code and Article 5 of the Money-Laundering and Terrorist Financing Control and Prevention Act state that wiretapping may only be used with court order and for a limited period of time.
However, the law doesn't specify a duration for wiretapping, allowing applications to be extended indefinitely.
In some cases, this has led to infringement on the privacy of innocent citizens in the country. But with the recent rise of violent crime in the country, police are tempted to use any advantage to secure evidence.
Unfortunately, loose laws may lead to the release of Milton Edgardo Millán, who was detained on January 13, 2010 with a large quantity of cocaine, as his attorney argues that the wiretaps used to monitor Millán were improper. Many other attorneys have followed suit. The attorneys have pointed out that investigators are just changing the name on standardized wiretap warrants without supporting evidence.
Obviously, Uruguay's judicial system needs to implement more strict standards here, or there will continue to be problems in the future.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., there are attempts being made to standardize VoIP wiretapping as the FBI has proposed a new law that would make it easier for the agency to listen in on IP conversations. The policy would essentially require VoIP providers to modify their programs to accommodate FBI wiretaps.
Microsoft filed for a patent in 2009 called Legal Intercept to do just that.
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Edited by Braden Becker