Friday, February 20, 2009

Bill Would Require ISPs, Wi-Fi Users To Keep Logs

In a Slashdot post, I found the following blurb associated with legislation that will impact all netizens in one way or another:
CNet is reporting on bills filed in the US House and Senate that would require all ISPs and operators of Wi-Fi hotspots — including home users — to maintain access logs for 2 years to aid in law enforcement. The bills were filed by Republicans, but the article notes that the idea of forcing data retention has been popular on both sides of the aisle over the years.

Republican politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that... would impose unprecedented data retention requirements on a broad swath of Internet access providers and is certain to draw fire from businesses and privacy advocates. ... Each [bill] contains the same language: 'A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user [i.e., DHCP].
Personally I consider myself to be a good citizen/netizen, and have nothing to hide in terms of my online activities. However, I do not like the idea of retaining computer network activity data to aid in law enforcement. The way I see it, there is a significant potential for misuse of this information. I have not given this issue much thought because, as the Slashdot article indicates, this is unprecedented legislation. However, one issue I see boils down to "How do we police the police and prevent the misuse of this power".

Some other issues that come to mind are:
* How will this legislation be enforced? It is one thing to enforce this relative to large ISPs, but to regulate the individual user is ludicrous.

* As an individual user subject to this legislation, what punishment and/or fine might be imposed on me if I do not acquiesce? Will this be a crime considered so heinous as to merit a sentence of life in prison? Or, will failing to comply with this legislation be likened to treason, for which the death penalty will be applicable?

* How in a court of law does the government demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have maliciously kept information from law enforcement?
All in all, this legislation seems like a really bad idea in the making. It has all of the underpinnings of the Patriot Act in the sense that by allowing the passage of this legislation we willingly relinquish civil rights in the favor of greater security. Yes, that is exactly where I am going. As Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security". Perhaps I am being short-sighted on this subject, but I am of the opinion that, like the Patriot Act, this legislation is not worth the paper on which it is written, and as far as I know, I am still afforded First Amendment rights as defined by the United States Bill of Rights...or am I?

And with that, I am off to see the wizard...

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