If anyone still believes that electronic communiqués are private, then the furore over AOL’s pending sale of their ICQ instant messaging service to a Russian investment firm should dispel that belief.
As reported in the Financial Times, the United States has raised objections to the sale plans for ICQ: “senior US enforcement officials” objected to the sale on the grounds that it will reduce their ability to eavesdrop on top criminals.
ICQ is the market-leader in Russia, Germany and the Czech Republic and, investigators claim, is widely used by criminal gangs in Eastern Europe. ICQ’s headquarters are currently in Israel – a country with close ties to the US.
Clearly, if the impending move of ICQ from Israel to Russia is such a blow to law enforcement effectiveness, government eavesdropping on instant message is pretty ubiquitous.
So, let’s be in no doubt that the next time you’re instant messaging your business colleagues, spouses, children, lovers, etc. you’re actually having a “three-way” with the CIA. Unless, of course, you chose to use ICQ...in which case it’ll presumably be with the FSB.
By Andrew Tait