The Internet Safety Act launches a new battle on privacy
Column: Children need to be protected online, but these new bills go too far.
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“Opponents of the bill say it’s an invasion of privacy, but that’s not the case. The government can only access subscriber information as part of a criminal investigation.... If we require phone companies to retain this same type of information, there is no reason why the law should not be updated to include ISPs.”Skip to next paragraph
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Opponents of the bill are indeed calling it a very large invasion of privacy.
In an opinion piece on PCWorld, tech writer David Coursey calls it a “misguided” piece of legislation and says it would hurt business. “If Congress is intent on collecting this information for law enforcement, and I am not saying it is necessarily a bad idea, we should reengineer the Internet to collect this information automatically,” he writes sarcastically. “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.”
Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, also points out that there are other groups that would love to see this legislation go ahead, such as music and movie companies. On CNET, Mr. Rotenberg notes that “such a bill would ‘create new risk’ for Web surfers and peer-to-peer users, spawning legal fishing expeditions and lawsuits.” He called the legislation a “terrible idea.”
The blog Daily Tech speculates that the legislation may be a reaction to several setbacks suffered by those in favor of more control over the Internet, such as the 10-year demise of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which ended this past January in the Supreme Court.
As a long-time proponent of privacy on the Internet, I can agree with many of the people opposed to the bills. But I’ve also written this year about efforts to help protect children from what really is a deluge of child porn and predators. Asking people to keep records for up to two years is too long and too cost-prohibitive, especially for smaller providers. A year makes more sense. And the law needs to be narrowed to cover only child porn and the hunt for pedophiles, so that it can’t be used by people like the music industry to go on fishing expeditions to suss out online piracy.
The Internet is now too much a part of America to turn back the clock. Overly broad legislation is not the answer.