European Union to investigate internet telephony eavesdropping

The European Union's Judicial Co-operation Unit, also known as Eurojust, has announced it is working on a Europe-wide feasibility study into how legal VOIP telephony monitoring would be possible.

Eurojust is a European Union body established back in 2002 to enhance the effectiveness of legal authorities when dealing with the investigation and prosecution of serious cross-border and organised crime.

According to the Italian government, which is spearheading the Eurojust initiative, there are now real concerns that organised criminals and arms and drug traffickers are using services such as Skype to avoid traditional - and tappable - phone networks.

"The possibility of intercepting internet telephony will be an essential tool in the fight against international organised crime within Europe and beyond," said Carmen Manfredda, Eurojust's acting national member for Italy, in a press statement.

"Our aim is not to stop users from taking advantage of internet telephony, but to prevent criminals from using Skype and other systems to plan and organise their unlawful actions. Eurojust will make all possible efforts to co-ordinate and assist in the co-operation between Member States," she said.

Manfredda and Eurojust's Italian operation are now working on a VOIP eavesdropping initiative, which was requested by Italy's national anti-Mafia directorate.

The gameplan calls on Eurojust to try and overcome "the technical and judicial obstacles to the interception of internet telephony systems, taking into account the various data protection rules and civil rights."

The problem facing Eurojust is immense, Infosecurity notes, as around half of internet telephony calls are now processed entirely across the internet, not touching the regular phone network at all.

It is not all doom and gloom, however, as Skype, one of the major VOIP service providers on the internet, had confirmed it is working with the relevant authorities on developing a monitoring technology for legal eavesdropping.

This goes against previous reports that Skype was unwilling to co-operate with international agencies on the legal eavesdropping front.

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