The technology industry is upset over a bill that would muck up the whole Internet just to keep people from illegally downloading copyrighted stuff like movies. But the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) is not the only dumb idea politicians have had about technology.It’s not even the only dumb tech bill they’ve introduced in 2011.
Our current Congress has written tech legislation that would let the government ignore all privacy laws, would force your local coffee shop to spy on you while you surfed the Web, and would crush one its own departments, the Federal Communications Commission, because some members of Congress didn’t like its stance on a particular issue.
title=”Senator Patrick Leahy wants to make our Internet more like China, Malaysia, and Iran’s”
content=”The bill: S. 968: Protect IP Act
The bill’s stated goal: To prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property, and for other purposes.
Why it’s stupid: The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PIPA) is the Senate’s version of the SOPA bill, with all the same crappy implications to the Internet. Introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, PIPA and SOPA want to mess with the Internet’s Domain Name System in order to stop people from selling illegal goods or pirated materials.
DNS is the system that takes the words you type into your browser and translates them to the numbers that servers worldwide use to identify specific Web pages. (For instance when you type www.businessinsider.com, DNS servers translate that to 220.127.116.11 as if you typed 18.104.22.168 into your browser directly.)
There are so many reasons why tampering with DNS is stupid, we won’t go into them all again, now. But let’s just say that the people that invented the Internet think this bill is insane. It takes away a free and open Internet and makes the U.S. behave like China, Malaysia, and Iran. Not good.”
title=”Rep. Marsha Blackburn wants to let your Internet service provider slow down your favourite Web sites”
content=”The bill: H.R. 96: Internet Freedom Act
The bill’s stated goal: To prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet.
Why this is stupid: Sounds great, right — keep the government’s hands off the Internet? But that’s not really what this bill is about. The bill, introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, is an attempt to stop the FCC from executing on its “Net Neutrality” rules. It’s true that those rules are uncomfortably vague in spots. But the FCC’s goal is to stop Internet service providers from doing sneaky things like throttling or blocking access to the Internet as a way to hurt their competitors. The rules are trying to keep the Internet free and open.
This bill had a lot of steam in January, shortly after the FCC rules were passed, picking up 88 co-sponsors among Republicans in the house. It has been stuck in committee since February.
The American Association of Libraries opposes this bill.”
title=”Rep. Lamar Smith wants to force airports and hotels to keep detailed records of what you did on their Wifi”
content=”The bill: H.R. 1981: Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011
The bill’s stated goal: To amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to child pornography and child exploitation offenses.
Why it’s stupid: We all want to protect our children. But this bill is a scary infringement on privacy. The bill was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith and has been criticised for its confusing language. As written, it could force any business offering paid Internet access (airports, hotels, coffee shops, your ISP) to keep detailed records of what every customer did online. All that snooping is to be done on the chance that the government might one day want to look at it, says the centre for Democracy and Technology.
This bill is out of committee and slated for discussion by the House.”
title=”Rep. Mike Rogers wants to give the government a free pass around all privacy laws”
content=”The bill: H.R. 3523: Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011
The bill’s stated goal: To provide for the sharing of certain cyber threat intelligence and cyber threat information between the intelligence community and cybersecurity entities, and for other purposes.
Why it’s stupid: In the guise of protecting the Internet and corporate networks, this bill basically gives the government a free pass around all privacy laws. Even if the government unfairly targets someone, a citizen wouldn’t be free to fight the investigation against them, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the bill.
If that isn’t enough to give you the shudders, the ACLU also warns, “Once an individual’s information is shared with the government, there would be no restriction on the use of that information. It could be used for any purpose whatsoever and shared with any agency.”
The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers on Nov. 30 and has been sent to committee.”
title=”But wait, there’s hope (sort of)”
content=”Congress did introduce at least one popular bill that would be good for the Internet, too.
That’s the S. 913/H.R. 654: Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011.
It directs the Federal Trade Commission to come up with a plan that limits how a person’s online activities can be tracked. It was widely endorsed when it was introduced in the House and Senate in February. But it has yet to make it out of committee.
Congress must be too busy working on ideas that hurt the Internet.”