In the last week of July, a congressional subcommittee took time out from arguing about government debt to approve a bill know as H.R. 1981, or the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011” (PCFIPA of 2011). This bill, if passed by Congress and signed into law, would require Internet service providers (ISPs), the companies that provide people’s Internet connections, to retain the personal information of Internet users for up to 18 months. This information would include names, IP addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, websites visited, and messages posted on the Web. Wireless service providers would not be affected by the bill, ostensibly because it would be more difficult to distinguish individual wireless users.
- Police: Internet providers must keep user logs (CNET News/Declan McCullagh) “Michael Brown, sheriff in Bedford County, Va., and a board member and executive committee member of the National Sheriffs’ Association, is planning to argue that a new law is necessary because Internet providers do not store customer records long enough. ‘The limited data retention time and lack of uniformity among retention from company to company significantly hinders law enforcement’s ability to identify predators when they come across child pornography,’ according to a copy of Brown’s remarks.”
- Is Congress’s ISP-logging bill a violation of the Fourth Amendment? (ReadWriteWeb/Dan Rowinski) “Essentially, if the government wants, it could track everything you have done online for the last year and a half without a warrant or user consent. The debate over mandatory data retention has been evolving for nearly a decade and has caused a ruckus among privacy groups that claim it is a violation of civil liberties and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment states that people should be protected from unreasonable search and seizures.”
- What you need to know about the Internet snooping bill (and how you can protect yourself) (Lifehacker/Adam Dachis) “Finding a needle in a haystack is hard, but it gets to be pretty close to impossible when that haystack is the size of a country. There are too many people not downloading child porn to easily locate an offender and too few policemen to thoroughly look through the information. Like we’ve seen when the RIAA prosecuted music downloaders with little success, you get nowhere going after the consumers.”
- Unhappy meal: Data retention bill could lure sex predators into McDonalds, libraries (ArsTechnica/Christopher Soghoian) “If this legislation passes with the wireless loophole intact, residential broadband providers will be forced to retain identifying records that can be used to link users’ online activities to their authenticated identities. Mobile phone carriers will continue to retain data voluntarily, and public WiFi networks will remain one of the last places where people, whether angels or devils, can browse the Internet anonymously.”
The Lifehacker article cited above calculates that there are about 272,100,000 Americans connected to the Internet, and about 10,000 known child pornography consumers.