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Do it for the children

Lamar Smith wants to Protect Children from Internet Pornographers, but also record your Internet activity

While the Internet has been clamoring over its defeat of SOPA and PIPA, TX Rep. Lamar Smith — who drafted the House bill — has reintroduced legislation he originally authored in May of 2011. His latest attempt at regulating the Internet carries with it the same out of touch grasp on technology that lead to the overly broad language used in SOPA. Except this time, Smith has decided to hide behind an issue no one can disagree with: punishing child pornographers.

Don’t be fooled by Lamar Smith and his political charade; this bill represents a real threat to online privacy.                                                

H.R. 1981 is the bill’s official title, but Rep. Smith has given it a much more threatening moniker, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act.

The Congressman would prefer citizens see his bill as a gallivanting crusade to rescue children from the scary Internet, instead of what it actually is: legislation that addresses some valid concerns in regards to child pornography, but is lined with caveats that strengthen government while weakening the Internet for all users.

Taken directly from the bill:

A provider of an electronic communication service... shall retain for a period of at least 12 months the temporarily assigned network addresses the service assigns to each account... records retained pursuant to section 2703(h) of title 18, United States Code...”

What’s that last bit mean? Section 2703(h) of title 18? Is Smith using the convoluted nature of law to mask his true intentions?

Thanks to research from Reddit user Ramennov, the legislative trickery can be peeled back, revealing a bill that aims to archive a multitude of personal information on all Internet users, regardless of suspected criminality.

If passed, the bill would require Internet service providers to retain certain personal information from all of their customers for a minimum of 12 months. Sensitive data such as credit card numbers, mailing addresses and bank account numbers, along with local and long distance calling records, would all be stored for extended periods of time and would just be a subpoena away from the zealous eyes of federal authorities. You know, in case you’re a child pornographer.

In a brazen display of 1984-grade watchfulness, the bill makes sure to note that any subpoenas issued would be “solely for the purpose of investigating unregistered sex offenders.” By my count, most of the population would be classified as “unregistered sex offenders”. In fact, this recent study finds that nearly 99% of the United States would fall under the large net cast by this bill.

The Congressman would prefer citizens see his bill as a gallivanting crusade to rescue children from the scary Internet, instead of  legislation lined with caveats that strenghten government while weakening the Internet for all users.

Despite Smith’s obvious display of cowardice in placing an issue as serious as child pornography in front of intrusive eavesdropping legislation, the bill does at least have good intentions. True, granting investigators authority to monitor IP addresses would be an effective tool in catching online predators... if that was how IP addresses worked.

An IP address is completely anonymous and, despite how CSI has used the technology, it is completely impractical to use as a geolocation tool. So while the intention is noble, the execution is exceedingly misguided. Again.

So don’t be fooled by Lamar Smith and his political charade; this bill represents a real threat to online privacy. Child pornography is absolutely abhorrent and any legislation raised to prevent it should be considered, but when the law requires a complete distrust of our citizenry, the motives behind what is written must be called into question.

Is Rep. Lamar Smith as concerned with protecting children as he is with archiving data on a huge portion of the population? A distasteful question to be asking of our lawmakers, but one necessary none the less.

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The full text of the bill in PDF format, can be read here.

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