Congress Turns Internet Into Police State

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Reason #34,261 To Not Use Wi-Fi: The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including "obscene" cartoons and drawings--or face fines of up to $300,000.

That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user's account be retained for subsequent police inspection.

Before the House vote, which was a lopsided 409 to 2, Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) held a press conference on Capitol Hill with John Walsh, the host of America's Most Wanted and Ernie Allen, head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Allen said the legislation--called the Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act, or SAFE Act--will "ensure better reporting, investigation, and prosecution of those who use the Internet to distribute images of illegal child pornography."

The SAFE Act represents the latest in Congress' efforts--some of which have raised free speech and privacy concerns--to crack down on sex offenders and Internet predators. One bill introduced a year ago was even broader and would have forced Web sites and blogs to report illegal images. Another would require sex offenders to supply e-mail addresses and instant messaging user names.

Wednesday's vote caught Internet companies by surprise: the Democratic leadership rushed the SAFE Act to the floor under a procedure that's supposed to be reserved for noncontroversial legislation. It was introduced October 10, but has never received even one hearing or committee vote. In addition, the legislation approved this week has changed substantially since the earlier version and was not available for public review.



Posted by hmn on 2007-12-06 14:21:04
Once again, more legislation that demands service providers to maintain records that are logistically impossible. None but the largest companies will be able to retain that much data, or provide the infrastructure required to persistently monitor network traffic.

And that's not even getting into the nightmare of private citizens with wi-fi leaches because they don't have the knowledge to encrypt their signal. Your typical off-the-shelf router doesn't usually have the built-in functionality to do it. You'd have to set up network monitoring on your computer, and if someone doesn't know how to encrypt their signal, I highly doubt they know how to monitor network traffic.

It's bad legislation, because it's impossible for stakeholders to comply.
Posted by Pile on 2007-12-07 10:03:26
Personally, there's really no reason for wifi in the first place. It's inherently insecure. If you're too lazy to run a cable into a separate bedroom, then you deserve to get busted for downloading child porn. Ok, maybe not, but too many people use wifi that don't really need it.


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