We barely saved the internet from a nightmare catastrophe in the form of SOPA, and now it looks like there is another more insidious bill being proposed by none other than Senator Lamar Smith (R), the same fellow who proposed SOPA. This one is titled H.R. 1981, and from the surface it looks innocent enough, and even a worthy cause... nabbing scum-bag child pornographers. The bill is called “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011," which is definitely a goal just about anyone can get behind. Unfortunately, the particular wording behind this one tries to hide some ridiculous abuse of personal rights, and disguise it as a means to protect the innocent.
The problem with this bill, is that its current wording would "require Internet service providers to capture credit card data, bank statements, IP information and search history from every user and keep it on hand for 18 months." Of course, to try and placate the obvious and immediate response that most people will have about this massive breach of privacy, they did add into the bill that those ISP's should keep that information stored "in a safe place." Obviously, this doesn't really do anything to mitigate the fact that this information is basically stolen from the user. The intention of the law is to be able to keep tabs on potential child pornographers and prosecute them "after-the-fact" so that even if they destroyed any incriminating evidence on their own personal computer, there would still be backup proof of the offense. Also, under this bill, the US Government would have access to that data without a warrant, so yes indeed it gets worse.
Of course, it becomes painfully obvious of the numerous reasons why this is such a bad piece of legislation. First, it really does nothing to combat child pornography, but instead effectively watches everyone, regardless if they have done something wrong. Talk about "Big Brother"... And, this wouldn't really deter or successfully catch child pornographers anyway, because their info would simply be hidden amongst a "pile" of millions of other bits of data, and most child-pornographers don't ever use their own home internet anyway.
In fact, one of the first things this bill would do would be to effectively annihilate Internet commerce, because who is going to want to make purchases online when they know that all their banking and credit card information will be stored for anyone with "authorization" to snoop through. Of course, there is the whole other stupid part of requiring the ISP's to "store the information securely", because, of course, no company out in the world ever gets hacked, right? I am looking at you Sony, ComCast, etc. With this bill, the number of ways for your information to be stolen by hackers goes up dramatically.
Sadly, this bill exists because many of our "representatives" in Congress, regardless of party, (especially folks like Lamar Smith), are so out of touch with today's technology that they simply do not comprehend what they are doing when proposing these thermonuclear style laws. Luckily, this bill has not come up for a vote yet, but surprisingly (or not surprisingly) it did pass its initial committee. Ironically, there was a bill similar to this brought forward in the past, called the Child Online Protection Act, which was blocked by the Supreme Court, and this bill is actually worse than that one!
Make no mistake, fighting child porn is a noble cause, but this brute-force style approach is not only an attack on the soul of the Internet, but an attack on the Constitution as well. We need to look at realistic solutions using advancements in technology. Dragging our civil liberties through a meat-grinder makes you wonder how on earth people like Lamar Smith got elected to begin with.