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Mass Surveillance and No Privacy Bill is ‘For the Children’

Feb 20, 20126 mins
Data and Information SecurityData CenterMicrosoft

What happens when stupid non-geeks write bills like SOPA and HR 1981? Rep. Lamar Smith says it's for the children, of course, and if you object to being spied upon online then you are some kind of guilty pro-child-porn lowlife pond scum sucker. Where does the stupidity stop?

It’s for the children, of course, and if you object to online spying then you are some kind of guilty lowlife pond scum sucker. No wonder so many of us hate stupid people. Rep. Lamar Smith, infamous to geeks as the author of SOPA, is sponsoring the bill H.R. 1981 which is better known as “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act.” H.R. 1981 isn’t exactly as easy to spit out as SOPA and is closer to something out of Orwell’s 1984. The EFF summed it up like this, “This sweeping new ‘mandatory data retention’ proposal treats every Internet user like a potential criminal and represents a clear and present danger to the online free speech and privacy rights of millions of innocent Americans.”

More or less, much like the just-in-case your data trail eventually reveals you are a terrorist, this bill presumes you are guilty until proven innocent of being a child porn dog as it would require ISPs to store your data for a year (at least 18 months). No big deal cause you aren’t gobbling up child porn? Big buzzer eeennk! Wrong, cause with your entire web browsing history saved for a year, dumped into yet another massive database, it would be waiting to be used against you. Demand Progress added that it’s collecting “what sites you’ve visited, and even your bank and credit card info.” Hey, if this bill passes then what’s next? A requirement to wear a flashing neon necklace out in public, broadcasting your IP address, your browsing history, or your thoughts for the thought police?

Online and offline, based on fear of terrorists, we gave up freedom, civil liberties and privacy rights after 9/11. Online, if you value privacy or anonymity then you are potentially a terrorist. Where does the stupidity stop?

Offline, if you buy one too many cold pills with pseudoephedrine then you are cooking meth in the devil’s kitchen? If you have a family and one child catches a cold, then in caring for your child you can pretty much count on everyone in the household eventually catching that cold. You may choose not to go to the doctor and instead opt to buy cold pills “for the children.” However, to get something that actually may help the cold symptoms, you usually have to purchase pseudoephedrine which is kept behind the pharmacy counter. If you buy one too many cold pills with pseudoephedrine, then it’s as if you are guilty of being a meth head addict. Some pharmacies won’t even sell you such cold pills without a prescription. At one such drugstore, the pharmacist said, you “never know if the car next to you is going to have a meth lab in it and blow up, you know it’s pretty scary.” Yeah, brilliant, break out the non-logical weapon of fear. Even if you can still purchase it, the database of buyers “helps fight crime.” What a crock of crap.

The point in mentioning this is that like all these ridiculous lists that suggest your actions may be “suspicious” and you may be a potential terrorist, buying cold pills is “suspicious” and you may be cooking meth. The numbers don’t add up, the few against the many with a cold, to take these steps as if we are all meth addicts. In the same way, the numbers don’t add up for your ISP to store all your online data as if we are all child porn perverts. What meds does control-freak Rep. Lamar Smith take to believe the few outweigh the privacy and freedom of the many? Play the child porn card when the piracy card failed? As TechDirt asked, is Lamar Smith the enemy of the Internet? Oh but it’s for the children of course and with a name like “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act” (#PCIP) then people opposing bill look “bad” to non-geeky voters.

This bill seems like SOPA 2.0, written by a man with a plan to further erode privacy and civil liberties in the digital age. I’m not a big fan of collateral damage, but I wasn’t against when Anonymous ran a sting to snag child porn fans who are ruining anonymity for all of us. This BS bill is expedited and “could be on the fast track to passing.” If your ISP keeps your surfing habits for a year, who knows within that year what else could be fast-tracked? Then that retained data could be used to prove you are some sort of digital criminal. North America is under a surveillance siege, both Canada (C-30) and the USA have clueless idiots about technology in the political sphere who think we will be led like blind sheep to slaughter privacy. Better watch out cause some geeky sheep are turning rabid and ready to fight for our rights.

Listen to the people who know how dangerous this bill is, the groups opposing it . . . but follow the money trail and be sure to check out the politicians and groups supporting it. After all, they support mass surveillance on steroids. Buying cold medicine doesn’t mean you cook meth. Being concerned with privacy doesn’t make you a terrorist. Opposing “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act” doesn’t make you a child pornography cheerleader.

With patience for the technically-challenged, the EFF wrote, your IP “can be used to identify who visited particular websites or posted particular content online — threatening your right to privately browse the web and to speak and read anonymously when you’re online. Mandatory data retention would force your Internet Service Provider to create vast and expensive new databases of sensitive information about you. That information would then be available to the government, in secret and without any court oversight, based on weak and outdated electronic privacy laws.” The EFF asked us to oppose this data retention and ISP police spying on us. Please do so to stop the stupidity and insanity where privacy and technology continue to collide in our digital world.

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.