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17 June 2010, 12:44

US authorities: Sale of ICQ would complicate prosecution

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ICQ Logo As reported in an article in the Financial Times, quoting US investigators, US law enforcement authorities are concerned that the sale of the ICQ instant messaging service would complicate internet prosecution. Internet service provider AOL plans to sell ICQ to Russian vendor Digital Sky Technologies (DST), who also own shares in Facebook.

The article points out that if the sale were to go through it's probable the ICQ servers would be relocated in Russia, placing them beyond the reach of US investigators. This would mean that the US authorities would lose an important avenue of investigation, as ICQ is said to be a popular communication medium especially among internet criminals. The Financial Times quoted one law enforcement investigator as saying “Every bad guy known to man [is on] ICQ”,

At present, the ICQ servers are still located at the service's headquarters in Israel, where US investigators have reportedly had access, at least in some cases, to the chat transcripts of criminal suspects. ICQ was originally developed by Israeli vendor Mirabilis. The service is very popular, especially in Russia: 19 million out of a total of 42 million users are said to be located in Russia alone.

The concerns raised by US investigators have reportedly also been brought before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), which can issue recommendations against the sale of US firms to foreign companies. However, the report said that the panel is currently not expected to stop the sale.


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