It’s difficult to argue against legislation that is billed as a means of protecting children. As a mother, there is nothing more frightening and repugnant than the knowledge that child predators are lurking about, including on the Internet.
So when Republicans last week proposed The Internet Safety Act in the House and Senate to reign in the Internet’s limitless nature, which “offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children”, it sounded pretty well-intentioned…on first blush. Upon further review, however, the plan appears to trample all over privacy rights, whatever is left of them.
The Internet Safety Act would require ISPs and home users to keep records about users on their networks for two years to aid police investigations.
As Kane’s Computing World points out, the bill not only applies to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and so on, but also to the tens of millions of homes with Wi-Fi access points or wired routers that use the standard method of dynamically assigning temporary addresses. It will turn “everyone with a router at home into an agent of the state”.
And yes, the likes of Aircell would also be affected, with the company’s pico cells working overtime to facilitate the rule.
But serious questions abound. If this legislation is passed, what will it mean for the increasing number of businesses that offer free Internet to customers and even the general public, asks David Coursey of PC World.
And, he questions, how do I maintain such records if you come over to my house and I give you a password for my access point? And, how will this law treat VOIP telephone calls? Will call data also need to be recorded?
Do you really believe the data collected will be used to focus on the fight of child exploitation? Coursey rightly bets otherwise, predicting that the data collected won’t be used nearly as much in the fight for children as it will in other types of investigations.
And if that’s the case, and Congress is intent on collecting this information for law enforcement, says Coursey, then we should “reengineer the Internet to collect this information automatically. Heck, we could all login using our new national identity cards, affirm our allegiance to Big Brother, and communicate safe in the knowledge that someone is watching over us”.
Of course, there is a slight hypocrisy inherent in our battle cry against Big Brother. Haven’t we been quickly marching towards a data-watch society for years? And, isn’t the collective “we” already participating in a sort of voluntary Big Brother (FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, anyone?)
I guess we must ask ourselves – where does the buck stop? Should it stop here, at the Internet Safety Act? It will take some very brave legislators to fight off a bill that espouses child protection. While they’re at it, they would be wise to propose legislation that finally gets tough on child predators. Here’s a thought – lock them up in the general prison population and throw away the key. Then maybe this mom will get some sleep.
(Graphic by Not Bad Design at notbaddesign.net)