The Criminalization of Internet Browsing

"Won't somebody please think of the children?!"  This is the rallying cry of hysterics and political zealots everywhere.  In the House of Representatives, it is now being spouted by supporters of a new bill that would require internet service providers to retain a database of our names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, dynamic IP addresses and browsing histories, in order, supposedly, to protect children from internet pornographers.  In other words, the goal is to create a massive police state surveillance network and spying database on every single American who uses the internet, and has nothing to do with "the children".  From ZDNet:
Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives’ judiciary committee passed a bill that makes the online activity of every American available to police and attorneys upon request under the guise of protecting children from pornography . . .

The Republican-majority sponsored bill is called the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011.  It has nothing to do with pornography, and was opposed by over 30 civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations, as well as one brave indie ISP that is urging its customers to do everything they can to protest the invasion of privacy.

“Protecting Children” forces ISPs to retain customer names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and dynamic IP addresses.  It’s like having your wallet plus the web sites you visit tracked and handed over on request. These logs are now going to be retained for the scope of one and a half years.  (I have to wonder if ISPs can sell this data, too.)  This has nothing to do with porn . . . 

CNET’s Declan McCullagh reminds us that “the mandatory logs would be accessible to police investigating any crime and perhaps attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases as well.” CNET reported that mandatory data retention was being fast-tracked in January, 2011.

The fact that civil litigants could subpoena your internet activity and the contents of your wallet has nothing to do with the labeled and stated purpose of this bill.
Such subpoenas would not require approval by any court.  Rather we must simply trust the credibility and integrity of the Democrat-Republican police state itself.  From the National Journal:
The bill also gives the U.S. Marshals Service the authority to use administrative subpoenas to track down unregistered sex offenders.  A court does not need to approve administrative subpoenas, and this provision garnered heated opposition from members who said that it gives the marshals too much power. An amendment by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., that would have stripped that provision from the bill, failed.
The bill, which has both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition from both major parties, provides us with a sickening example of the political tactics favored by police state and surveillance society advocates such as Lamar Smith (R) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D), who co-sponsored the measure.  Do you oppose the violation of privacy rights, the further evisceration of the Fourth Amendment, the consolidation of the police state and the expansion of the surveillance society?  Well, then you must support child pornography.  However, as is demonstrated by ongoing investigations of websites devoted to child pornography, proposals like that supported by Smith and Wasserman-Schultz are completely unnecessary to "protect children from internet pornographers."  From Ars Technica:
They used proxy servers and encryption. They used anonymous screen names like "Beast," "Bones," "Jailbird," and "Johnny_5_is_@live" to post and share their child sex abuse films. Admins carefully segregated participants according to how much they were trusted.

But none of that stopped the Department of Justice from identifying and indicting 72 people accused of celebrating the sexual abuse of children age 12 years and younger through a members-only Web forum called "Dreamboard."

"Using sophisticated methods to evade detection by law enforcement, Dreamboard members allegedly used the power and anonymity of the Internet to motivate each other to commit their horrific acts of sexual abuse of minors and trading in child pornography," announced Attorney General Eric Holder in a speech today. "No matter how savvy online predators think they are, we will find them, dismantle their networks, and bring them to justice."
To sign a petition against the bill, head over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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