Sunday, April 30, 2006

More Gummint Records

It didn't take long for the idea of forcing Internet providers to retain records of their users' activities to gain traction in the U.S. Congress.

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a Republican,
gave a speech saying that data retention by Internet service providers is an "issue that must be addressed." Child pornography investigations have been "hampered" because data may be routinely deleted, Gonzales warned.

Now, in a demonstration of bipartisan unity, a Democratic
member of the Congressional Internet Caucus is preparing to introduce an amendment--perhaps during a U.S. House of Representatives floor vote next week--that would make such data deletion illegal.

Using "child porn" is a good way to get the nose into the tent. But there are implications, too:

Critics of DeGette's proposal have said that, while the justification for Internet surveillance might be protecting children, the data would be accessible to any local or state law enforcement official investigating anything from drug possession to tax evasion. In addition, the one-year retention is a minimum...

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the free-market Cato Institute, said: "This is an unrestricted grant of authority to the FCC to require surveillance."

"The FCC would be able to tell Internet service providers to monitor our e-mails, monitor our Web surfing, monitor what we post on blogs or chat rooms, and everything else under the sun," said Harper, a member of the Department of Homeland Security's Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. "We're seeing a kind of hysteria reminiscent of the McMartin case. The result will be privacy that goes away and doesn't come back when the foolishness is exposed."

As usual, the Gummint kills flies with sledghammers.

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