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New bills seek to end internet anonymity

The topic of ISP data retention came up once again in the halls of Congress. A new bill, known as the “Internet SAFETY Act,” seeks to compel ISPs and anyone who hosts a Wi-Fi access point to log all information that could identify users, in order to assist police investigating child pornography.

Known formally under the full title “Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act,” the Internet SAFETY Act is actually two companion pieces of legislation – one working its way through the Senate as S.436, and the other through the House as H.R.1076. Their sponsors are Senator John Cornyn and Representative Lamar Smith, and both are republicans hailing from Texas.

“While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children,” said Cornyn in a Thursday press conference. “Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family level.”

Both bills are virtually identical, and contain the same language. “[Providers] of an electronic communication service or remote computing service” will be required to retain “all records … pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address” for two years.

Observers interpret the law to mean anyone who runs a network that assigns users a temporary IP address, internal or external – which would cast ISPs like AT&T in the same lot as coffee shops and corporate networks using DHCP.

CNET notes that both the U.S. Department of Justice’s position and legal definition of “electronic communication services” line up with this interpretation.

“Law enforcement officials had a chokehold on child pornography before the Internet exploded,” reads a Dallas Morning News editorial penned by Rep. Smith. “Perpetrators relied on the postal service to traffic their trade, and, by the end of the 1980s, postal investigators were winning the battle.”

“But the Internet changed everything. Now criminals can view pictures, download videos and watch the live molestation of a child. Pedophiles have, in effect, found a safe haven online.”

Citing the imagery of a TV crime drama, Rep. Smith wonders: “How many times have we seen TV detectives seek call logs of a suspect in order to determine who he has been talking to? What if the telephone companies simply said to the detectives, ‘Sorry, we get rid of that information after 24 hours’?”

 Increased data retention favors a completely different set of suitors as well, says Electronic Privacy Information Center director Marc Rotenberg: the music and movie industry. Such a bill would “create new risk” for web surfers and peer-to-peer users, spawning legal fishing expeditions and lawsuits.

“It's a terrible idea,” said Rotenberg.

Perhaps spurned on by privacy advocates’ calls for service providers to have a shorter memory – a call that many have listened to – or the death of COPA, it appears the Internet SAFETY Act is the latest in a series of anti-child-pornography initiatives seeking to lift the veil on internet anonymity.

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Morons on capital hill
By HrilL on 2/23/2009 1:23:19 PM , Rating: 2
These guys are technical morons. They must not know about ip spoofing, mac address cloning, proxies... There are so many ways around this and it is completely pointless. Hiding on the Internet is very easy and it will always be unless it is redesigned from the ground up and that is not going to happen.

As soon as I read this I thought that it had nothing to do with saving the children and it doesn't at all. First off a lot of this kiddie porn is already made so that poor child has already suffered and this won't protect them in any way.

Wifi is the free and open pipe to the Internet and the only true way to even track people would be to Croce everyone to register every MAC adress they own since that is all these logs are going to show for most DHCP server logs. So what good will these logs even be? You'll know what mac adress and ip were doing but not know who it is so it is pointless.

On the ISP level this is where it's really aimed at but even then you can clone a mac adress and have your router restore to it's native one on a power cycle thus when the Feds come knocking on your door and take all your eletronics as evidence it won't be your router that had that ip the logs match the mac adress to thus you'd easily be able to claim ip spoofing.

I'm going to write my reps and hopefully they'll have more brains.

RE: Morons on capital hill
By mindless1 on 2/23/2009 6:39:15 PM , Rating: 3
A technical moron would be someone who can't do, or know, these things as well as the average person. Ask a random sample of people on the street if they know what ip spoofing, mac cloning, etc, are, and have them explain them to you instead of just yes/no answer.

What these folks are is legislative morons, because they attempt to do so in areas they are not well advised in, it is their process that is flawed not individual bits of info. Unfortunately, legislative incompetence->ignorance (or agenda) is the worst kind when one happens to be doing it as a profession.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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