Sunday, January 30, 2011

New At Say Anything: New Congress Revives Internet Record Rentention Initiative

The new Congress has a lot on its plate. Working to reverse or at at least render less harmless the healthcare law, turning around the economy, reversing the unemployment numbers, dealing with a newly-nuclear Iran (not to mention a still-nuclear North Korea), the recent events in Egypt. Any and all of those things should take precedence over reviving Bush-era legislation to force internet service providers (ISPs) to maintain detailed records of the websites users visit.

A Judiciary committee aide provided a statement this afternoon saying "the purpose of this hearing is to examine the need for retention of certain data by Internet service providers to facilitate law enforcement investigations of Internet child pornography and other Internet crimes," but declined to elaborate.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing ISPs to store records of their users' activities for later review by police.
Thanks to the GOP takeover of the House, the odds of such legislation advancing have markedly increased. The new chairman of the House Judiciary committee is Lamar Smith of Texas, who previously introduced a data retention bill. Sensenbrenner, the new head of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, had similar plans but never introduced legislation. (It's not purely a partisan issue: Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, was the first to announce such a proposal.)
I don't see how the goal of catching child pornographers -- a worthwhile goal to be sure -- justifies infringing the rights of millions of law abiding internet users. I note the use of the nebulous phrase "other internet crimes"; a pliable, ill-defined concept that can both be used to represent any hot topic in the world of cybercrime and serve as a handy placeholder for whatever the listener cares to envision.

The problem here is that using any single crime perpetrated by a small percentage of the population to justify sweeping legislation that trods roughshod over individual privacy rights paints everyone as a presumed criminal. This might arguably be necessary if it were the only way to procure evidence against a perpetrator. Except of course, it isn't.

(Click here to read the rest of this post at Say Anything.)

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