Does Proposed Bill Protect Children from Pornography or Invade People's Privacy?

Filed under: In The News

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Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced the Patriot Act on the floor of the House 10 years ago to make it easier for authorities to rummage through your phone, email, library, medical and financial records.

But now Big Brother wants to know if you're looking at child pornography on the Internet. Hold the (tapped) phone, Sensenbrenner says. That's going too far.

"This does not strike at the problem in an effective manner, and it runs roughshod over the privacy rights of people who use the Internet for thousands of lawful purposes," Sensenbrenner tells the Wall Street Journal.

He means it. The congressman tells the newspaper the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act "ought to be defeated and put in the dustbin of history."

The act requires Internet providers to retain the Internet Protocol addresses of their users for 18 months to make searches easier for authorities.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, R-Texas, and cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 13 other representatives. The legislation "enables law enforcement officials to successfully locate and prosecute those who want to hurt our children," Smith testified before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee this week.

Sensenbrenner isn't the only congressmen concerned about the bill. While the champion of the Patriot Act worries about your privacy, other lawmakers argue the bill is ineffective.

Rep. Bobby Scott, Democrat-Va., tells the Journal child pornographers leave enough high-tech fingerprints. The real problem is finding enough computer geeks who know how to dust for those sorts of prints.

"When one is looking for a needle in a haystack, the last thing you need is more hay," Scott says.

And, if you happen to be a child pornographer, the act includes a loophole you can drive a black van through. It includes an exemption for wireless providers and operators of public wi-fi networks.

"If the House Judiciary Committee is truly concerned about protecting children, why is it proposing legislation that will encourage sexual predators to visit McDonald's restaurants in order to share their illicit contraband online?" cybersecurity researcher Chris Soghoian wrote to committee members.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.