Aug 01 2011
While most of Congress was bending over backwards to suck Grover Norquists kneecaps, you probably missed this little tidbit from our legislative betters on Capitol Hill:
Every right-thinking person abhors child pornography. To combat it, legislators have brought through committee a poorly conceived, over-broad Congressional bill, The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011. It is arguably the biggest threat to civil liberties now under consideration in the United States. The potential victims: everyone who uses the Internet.
The good news? It hasn’t gone before the full House yet.
The bad news: it already made it through committee. And history shows that in times of moral panic, overly broad legislation has a way of becoming law. In fact, a particular moment comes to mind.
That name is what brought the anecdote back to me. A better name for the child pornography bill would be The Encouragement of Blackmail by Law Enforcement Act. At issue is how to catch child pornographers. It’s too hard now, say the bill’s backers, and I can sympathize. It’s their solution that appalls me: under language approved 19 to 10 by a House committee, the firm that sells you Internet access would be required to track all of your Internet activity and save it for 18 months, along with your name, the address where you live, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers, and IP addresses you’ve been assigned.
Tracking the private daily behavior of everyone in order to help catch a small number of child criminals is itself the noxious practice of police states. Said an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American.” Even more troubling is what the government would need to do in order to access this trove of private information: ask for it.
I kid you not — that’s it.
As written, The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 doesn’t require that someone be under investigation on child pornography charges in order for police to access their Internet history — being suspected of any crime is enough. (It may even be made available in civil matters like divorce trials or child custody battles.) Nor do police need probable cause to search this information. As Rep. James Sensenbrenner says, (R-Wisc.) “It poses numerous risks that well outweigh any benefits, and I’m not convinced it will contribute in a significant way to protecting children.”
Among those risks: blackmail.
This is how our right to privacy dies-they wrap it up in a nice shiny wrapper and tell us it is for our own good. Jph Cole made a great point a couple of days back: “I can’t wait to see if the loudmouth “freedom” lovers in the tea party actually come out on the side of freedom. Although they are probably too focussed on keeping the Koch’s taxes low and making sure Michelle doesn’t have too many calories for lunch.”
Where is their outrage about this? Not a peep to be heard-it gets in the way of making the rich even richer.