February 22, 2009

Internet Privacy Issues

I am very concerned about taking measures to protect society and children in general, but this is problematic. Once we start giving up civil liberties they become very hard to get back and that is part of how I see this.

Information can be used in a variety of ways and once this is collected I wonder what is going to happen with it.
Two bills have been introduced so far--S.436 in the Senate and H.R.1076 in the House. Each of the companion bills is titled "Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act," or Internet Safety Act.

Each 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."

Translated, the Internet Safety Act applies not just to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and so on--but also to the tens of millions of homes with Wi-Fi access points or wired routers that use the standard method of dynamically assigning temporary addresses. (That method is called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP.)

"Everyone has to keep such information," says Albert Gidari, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm in Seattle who specializes in this area of electronic privacy law.

The legal definition of electronic communication service is "any service which provides to users thereof the ability to send or receive wire or electronic communications." The U.S. Justice Department's position is that any service "that provides others with means of communicating electronically" qualifies.

That sweeps in not just public Wi-Fi access points, but password-protected ones too, and applies to individuals, small businesses, large corporations, libraries, schools, universities, and even government agencies. Voice over IP services may be covered too.

Under the Internet Safety Act, all of those would have to keep logs for at least two years. It "covers every employer that uses DHCP for its network," Gidari said. "It covers Aircell on airplanes-- hose little pico cells will have to store a lot of data for those in-the-air Internet users."

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