Tuesday, August 02, 2011

What would you do to protect the children?

At the very least, we want to protect the children. We would do anything to keep would-be predators from coming in contact with our children. We would especially keep the most reprehensible child pornographers from having access to any child, and from promulgating their wares abroad online.

What would you be willing to do to stop these villains? Surrender your name? Your home address? Your phone number? These are public bits of information anyway so what's the harm, right? What about your eighteen month web history? Maybe, what have you to hide, right?

OK, how about your credit card number? Bank account numbers?

Well, a bill recently approved by a committee in congress has been approved and is about to be offered up for a vote to become law. This bill will require ISPs (that's Internet Service Providers such as AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, Earthlink, etc) to compile a database of all of its users and record each user's name, address, phone number, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and dynamic IP addresses. For eighteen months. As this excellent LifeHacker article points out,

"It's like handing over a year's worth of browser history plus the contents of your wallet to the police. The thing is, you're not really handing it over so much as your ISP is—without your consent."

I would encourage you to read this article as it does an excellent job of pointing out assumptions and flaws contained in the hard-to-argue-with-titled bill, "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011" (PCFIPA of 2011), as well as making great suggestions on how you can circumnavigate the potential ISP tracking of your online usage.

Besides the issues and questions raised in this article, I would like to add my two cents.

  1. What happens when an administration decides to track everyday citizens' whereabouts online and upon disapproval, issue warrants without due process? (RIAA, anyone?)
  2. How comfortable are you with your ISP knowing where you do your banking, what investments you have, where you give your money, what political causes you support, what health issues you are concerned with, what careyou're considering buying?
  3. How comfortable are you knowing that not only is your ISP storing a year and a half's worth of this information, but they could turn it over to the government at any point without you knowing?
  4. Given Wikileaks, Lolsec, and Anon's ability to break into or gain access to government servers and gain information seemingly at will, how comfortable are you with your ISP's ability to secure this information about you, your friends and neighbors, and 270+ million American internet users?
  5. Your ISP has to now manage a huge data server farm and its corresponding security. How comfortable are you with all of the necessary overhead that you will now be required to pay for?

What other concerns am I (and the LifeHacker article) missing?

You can read more about the bill here.