The government wants major Internet companies to turn over users' passwords, according to C-NET News.
C-NET reported Thursday the move represents a step up in surveillance techniques.
If the government has someone's password, it can be used to log in to that person's account and then review personal information and correspondence - or even impersonate the user.
Many Internet companies have flatly refused the government's demands for passwords and other ways to get into personal accounts.
"I've certainly seen them ask for passwords," one Internet industry source told C-NET. "We push back."
Another source said Web firms "really heavily scrutinize" such requests. "There's a lot of 'over my dead body.'"
Meanwhile, the legalities of the matter remain murky.
"This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?" Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society, told C-NET. "I don't know."