Saturday, August 18, 2012

H.R. 1981 presumes we are all child pornographers

Originally posted 08/03/2011 on

In her "Pulp Tech" blog at ZDNet Violet Blue reported that the House Judiciary Committee has passed the "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011," a bill that is supposedly designed to protect children from Internet pornographers. Violet has several concerns with this bill, ranging from the fact that it seems to confuse pornographers - people engaged in a legal, if unsavory to some, activity - with pedophiles, who are among the most despicable people on the planet.

That is a big problem, but it surpassed by the specifics of the bill itself. Section 4 requires "A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least 18 months the temporarily assigned network addresses the service assigns to each account." That makes it a requirement for ISP's to keep complete records of everywhere you surf for at least 18 months. Further into the bill (Section 11) it modifies Section 3486(a)(1) of title 18 regarding administrative subpoenas.

A lot of people have been complaining about this bill. It is a privacy nightmare, requiring ISPs to keep records of everything you do online for a year and a half and allowing the records to be requested by just about anyone for any purpose. Violet Blue quotes Representative John Conyers:

“The bill is mislabeled,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the panel. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”

From small ISPs (most large ISPs folded to government pressure years ago), privacy groups like the EFF and EPIC to congressmen, the concern over this bill is widespread. But if we don't get involved it will pass. The next step will be to make technologies like TOR illegal so you can't hide what you are doing from the government. The next likely step would be to outlaw open wifi. As long as people can go to Starbucks and surf this law will be easily circumvented, so open wifi will have to go. And there might be another attempt to outlaw encryption technologies. That was unsuccessfully attempted before, but the steady erosion of rights and civil liberties since 9/11 make it's passage more likely now, especially if bills like "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011" pass and are not overturned by the courts.

Contact your senators and representatives and let them know that this bill serves only one purpose, and that is to make it easier for government agencies to spy on law abiding citizens.

The text of the H.R. 1981 is here (PDF).