The CALEA Trusted Third Party — Who Do You Trust?

As the nation’s leading CALEA Trusted Third Party (TTP), Subsentio has focused on solving electronic surveillance issues since 9/11. Trust is the essence of our business. Every day literally hundreds of communications service providers (CSPs) and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) count on us to carry out the intense, time-sensitive job of lawful intercepts, records production and emergency requests, and we do so “without a hitch.” It is a complex process that involves thorough familiarity with the technical and legal milieu of surveillance, properly balanced with respect for the individual’s right to privacy as safeguarded under CALEA. The bottom line is always public safety and national security. You can’t meet any of these objectives without first winning the trust of all involved. We take that responsibility seriously. It is why we started Subsentio as a CALEA Trusted Third Party over 14 years ago.

However, from the beginning there were several surprising things that bothered me about the industry.

First, there was no certification process from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Anyone could claim to be a TTP. As a result, the bar was so low that there was no bar, at all. Numerous companies jumped into the business with visions of making millions of dollars, only to quickly abandon their customers when they realized how difficult this business is.

Second, there was a reliance on “Just-in-Time” solutions that turned out to be never on time, and actually slowed the lawful intercept process, putting public safety at risk.

But what disturbed me the most then, and still does today, is that too many so-called TTPs view CALEA compliance as a commodity. For them, the mission changed from saving lives, solving crimes and protecting United States citizens to saving money. Placing trust in cut-rate, bargain basement vendors can lead to catastrophic outcomes. Other than 911 services, I can’t think of another aspect of telecommunications that has more legal landmines for a service provider if not handled correctly than CALEA. And in today’s toxic litigious environment that’s a recipe for disaster.

Without legal review of court orders by qualified experts, carriers could inadvertently violate the privacy of subscribers. Without personnel who hold proper security clearances, TTPs can’t review classified information on behalf of their clients. And if the TTP can’t turn up a court order in 15 minutes or less, a child could be lost forever in a kidnapping case.

It all comes down to trust. If a CALEA Trusted Third Party leads with price and doesn’t discuss how it can be trusted with the safety of your child or loved one then the CSP is putting all of its subscribers at risk. If a TTP leads with price, and doesn’t outline how to protect the CSP from being sued for right to privacy violations, then the carrier is putting its company in grave financial risk. And if a TTP leads with price and has no one on their staff with law enforcement experience, they lack the necessary expertise to deal with the 18,000 law enforcement agencies that are in the United States. At Subsentio, we have years of case studies where lives have been saved, terrorists have been thwarted and crimes have been solved. It’s what motivates us to be the best in the industry.

Trust is like a savings account. You earn it by making a lot of deposits over time. After 14 years Subsentio is honored to be the oldest and most trusted TTP for over 100 million subscribers. We got here by leading with trust. It’s not a commodity.