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UNF Spinnaker

UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

Forcing your internet provider to spy on you act 2011

An overbearing Congressional bill, “The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011,” aims to pull a fast one on right-minded citizens misled by the bill’s marketable title. In fact, it’s arguably the biggest threat to Americans civil liberties since the Patriot Act in 2001. At least, for everyone who uses the Internet.

During late July 2011, while Washington was up in arms about the debt-ceiling fiasco, the House Judiciary committee approved legislation H.R. 1981 with a vote of 19-10.

The bill calls for Internet service providers to save customer’s IP addresses – or online identity numbers – and retain web activity for a year, while removing the need for federal officials to seek a warrant when obtaining this information.

If this bill were to pass, it would effectively require private companies to gather information such as the names, addresses, phone numbers, bank account numbers and credit card numbers of millions of citizens just in case any of them breaks the law at some point.

To make the bill politically difficult to oppose, bi-partisan proponents of the data retention requirements tagged the bill with something no rational person could possibly be against: pedophilia. Indeed, the mandatory logs would be accessible to law enforcement investigating any crime and, of course, attorneys litigating civil disputes in copyrights, divorce, extortion, etc.

Thus, the pertinent questions at hand with this bill are, what is its real purpose? And, at what point do we sacrifice our civil liberties in order to feel protected?

Now, the Spinnaker isn’t going to take some pro-child pornography stance, so you can go ahead and forget that, Jack. But what is so troubling about this bill is that it seems to be an overzealous solution to a much deeper problem. One that can’t be resolved by branding every Internet user as a criminal.

Even more confusing is the question of what constitutes child pornography. A naked picture of a newborn? Teenagers sending nude picture mail to each other? What if somebody were to search for child pornography in order to conduct a study or report? What if someone were trying to sabotage you and searched for child porn on your computer in an attempt to trigger the system and have you arrested? Seriously, people are scandalous.

What’s more, it’s an easily avoidable quagmire for self-aware criminals, considering the bill would only apply to “commercial” providers. Therefore, “peder-asses” can simply go to a library or any WiFi hotspot and use the web anonymously, while law-abiding Americans would have their activities recorded.

Moreover, we must ask who is proposing the bill, and why did it take just a few weeks of lobbying by major ISPs, such as AT&T and Verizon, before an exemption was written to exclude wireless providers?

The leading proponent for the bill, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, displays a pattern when it comes to implementing this kind of legislation. In 2006, the congressman worked on the Intellectual Property Protection Act, which would have provided federal officers just enough leverage to acquire the data needed to really nail piracy violators.

Coincidentally, perhaps, the language of both bills match, save for the latter’s dubiously marketable name. In a phrase: It’s the same ‘ole soup, just re-heated.

The New York Post noted that if legislators were required to assign bills honest names, this one would read: “Forcing Your Internet Provider to Spy On You Just In Case You’re a Criminal Act of 2011.”

Let’s not forget, in light of so many incidents involving hacking (e.g. Sony, the Pentagon, UNF), it’s rather irresponsible to trust any agency to provide a foolproof data security system.
We are constantly warned not to post compromising information on Facebook or Twitter because we don’t always know who might see it, but with a bill such as this one, what are we to think of the information we don’t provide to a public domain?

At first blush, H.R. 1981 appears unquestionably necessary. But it’s a facade. It calls for massive restrictions to our civil rights to narrowly counter the small percentage of the citizens it purports to be after – such is the case with most police states. Considering all of the loose ends and unanswered questions, the Spinnaker believes the legislation and the elected officials behind it are what should be carefully monitored – and the whole damn thing should be rewritten in such a way that isn’t tailored to suit the interests of pushy corporations.

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