how to create a legal false dichotomy

January 29, 2012

Obviously there’s no justification or mitigating facet when it comes to child pornography and it is, just as it has to remain, an instant condemnation that leaves a giant skidmark on anything good someone involved with this horrid form of child abuse may have accomplished at any point in his life. You could avert World War 3 then go on to create a democratic, transparent, and effective government for the people of Somalia thus winning a well deserved Nobel Peace Prize. But get caught with child porn and you’re an instant pariah and no wonder. We’re supposed to protect children. They’re our future. They’re our hopes, dreams, and when we have children, it’s a commitment to decades of raising and educating them, and we’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe from violent sociopaths and perverts, especially when those perverts claim to study divine moral authorities and get easy access to kids by invoking their position in society. But as much as we want to protect children, we have to ask ourselves if we really want to completely obliterate legal online privacy and security while promptly exposing ourselves to blackmail, abuse, and a high potential for identity theft and financial fraud to do that?

Just like the issue with SOPA and PROTECT IP, the bill which opens another digital Pandora’s box has a very noble-sounding title and gives those intended to enforce it nearly limitless powers. A real world equivalent to this legislation would be declaring martial law to cut down on convenience store robberies. This isn’t just web traffic friendly hyperbole since both SOPA and PROTECT IP would’ve allowed anyone to take sites offline for any report of copyright infringement, real or not, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographer’s Act is mandating that your ISP store absolutely everything about your activities on the web for 18 months, and when I say everything, I’m also talking about keeping your personal financial information on file. That odd rash that could be mistaken for an STD you looked up on WebMD? Or the sexy lingerie you bought online? All saved by the company providing your internet access along with your bank accounts so if someone at your ISP decides to blackmail you in the future or take a luxury vacation with your savings or your credit card, all that’s needed is access to your personal data, data that’s unlikely to be all that well secured since your ISP is not on the hook if your personal information is compromised unlike your bank or credit card issuer. They’re just storing it in data centers because they have to and PCIPA doesn’t come with any guidelines for handling sensitive data.

Basically the whole point is to give law enforcement instant access to everyone’s personal data if they want to investigate someone for involvement in child pornography and come up with arrest warrant worthy evidence in several hours rather than several weeks or months. But as for those of us who have nothing to do with sordid child abuse and whose data is to be archived for effectively all time (not to get too technical, but such data will be around for a lot more than 18 months in the real world, I assure you), there’s no safeguard that will keep all this crucial information safe from characters with dubious intentions. Personally, if someone wants to peruse my financial records for an investigation in a court of law, I have no problem with producing what’s required as I’ve committed no crime and have nothing to fear from a judge. But just because I have nothing to fear doesn’t mean that I’m fine with my financial records and internet searches just floating around for a random employee or contractor at an ISP to dig through. Unlike law enforcement, they have zero business looking through them, and having seen how seriously they take security (hint, not very at all), I don’t trust them to have any of it. To go after child pornographers and pedophiles whether they are businessmen or holy men is noble. To declare an open season on everyone who uses the web and treat them as guilty until proven innocent is not.

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  • Bruce Coulson

    This is the classic Trojan Horse law. A law that openly stated its intent was to make sure all of your internet history was available to any person with authority would be immediately rejected. So, you need to link your real intent to something so noble that most people will accept it without question. (And those that question the law can be smeared with wanting to protect heinous criminals.)

    ‘But what of the children?’ is the standard approach for most of these laws in the United States.

  • Badbass9

    Agreed, Bruce. It’s been my experience that whenever someone says “it’s for the children”, run, screaming, as fast as you can in the opposite direction, for you are about to be lied to. This law is a thinly veiled extension of SOPA and/or PIPA. Who in their right mind would ever agree to such an awful concept? If anything, it violates our Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure. In a very ugly way. When will this stop?