The FBI has listed VoIP as one of the new technologies it's desperately trying to keep pace with, and has petitioned the industry to allow backdoor access to spy on Americans who might be up to no good.
The request for additional code to be incorporated by Internet service companies exceeding a minimum threshold of users is a planned amendment to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). A previous modification to CALEA in 2004 incorporated broadband networks in the roster of telecommunications providers, but Internet companies such as ISPs, VoIP providers, portals, social media networks, gaming platforms, and others who facilitate communication have never been integrated.
To the Internet — and Beyond!
As VoIP grows in popularity, the government finds itself increasingly on the outside looking in — unable to effectively eavesdrop on phone calls as it has for years over the traditional telephone system. FBI officials have now met with White House bureaucrats, senators, and industry representatives to ask for their cooperation in creating wiretap-ready products for Internet communication tools ranging from email to chat to Xbox Live to VoIP phone calls — anything that supports voice and video communication over the web and represents a "substantial replacement" to traditional telephony.
Privacy, Profit, and National Security
As an alternative to integrating a hardcoded backdoor, the government has also suggested that companies provide the government agencies with the necessary information to interpret data gathered during a legally-sanctioned wiretap. However, the prospect of handing over proprietary tools is unlikely to gain much traction in corporate boardrooms.
As it is, this attempt to combat the ongoing exclusion from communications channels (what the government refers to as 'Going Dark') presents a public relations challenge to the government — especially in the wake of the recent SOPA battle. This might be why the current White House administration appears to be reluctant to forward the CALEA amendment to Congress.
Warrants, Warrants, and More Warrants
Law enforcement would still be required to obtain court orders to wiretap an individual's communications, whether the alleged suspicious activity was conducted using encrypted VoIP phone plug-in software such as Zfone, Skype's encrypted, proprietary protocol transmission, or a Facebook instant message.
The primary objective, the FBI notes, is to make sure that their wiretaps are both easier to implement and more effective at gathering and interpreting the data.