US House Committee Approves Internet Snooping Bill
US House of Representatives Wants to Track All of Your Web Usage
Of course, author Lamar Smith (R-TX) didn't call it the "Internet Snooping Bill". He called it the "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011", because the rallying cry of "think of the children!" is a proven way to drown out dissent against a pointless and intrusive law. The House Judiciary Committee approved the Internet Snooping Bill 19-10.
In a nutshell, the law would force internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon and Comcast to store one year's worth of each and every customer's web-usage data. A last-minute rerite made the bill even more intrusive than it was when first introduced. This means ISPs will be forced to store:
- Pageload history
- Login credentials
- Buying patterns
- Credit card info
Basically, everything you do online. If we were data thieves, we'd be licking our chops right now.
How Does This Protect Children? It Doesn't
The problem with the bill is that collecting a year's worth of data from every American internet user would do nothing to stop child porn. There have been 10,000 arrests (not necessarily indictments) for child porn since 1996 in the US. That's roughly. 0.00003675 of the US population, not nearly compelling enough a number to warrant treating all Americans like criminals.
Now, the US government would have to sift through the records of all of the US internet users to (theoretically) string together a case against a potential child-porn viewer. Leaving aside for the moment the lack of law enforcement resources necessary to spy on the entire country at once, note that child-porn creators are not targeted here.
What are the chances, do you think, of the FBI being able to do this effectively? What happens when a criminal uses a web cafe or public library? As even a moment's thought will reveal, the only result of the Internet Snooping Bill is the government breathing down your neck.
As with the Patriot Act, this bill's effect belies its name.
Not only must we question Lamar Smith's logic, we must also question his understanding of what the internet actually is. This bill is broken by design. If emotional triggering is the strategy du jour, then fine: this bill is un-American. The EFF thinks so, too, and urges you to tell your Representative not to be an idiot.
One thing's for certain: Neither Smith nor the bill's supporters know what a VPN is... but now you do.