H.R. 1981: SOPA Author Lamar Smith's New Internet Surveillance Bill Intensifies Threats to Online Privacy

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Following the massive world-wide protests over the Internet in January, the infamous SOPA and PIPA are mostly dead with the author Lamar Smith saying he won't take the bill up in committee until a wider agreement on a solution is reached.

While people have been celebrating the victory over SOPA and PIPA, here's what has managed to slip by relatively unobserved, until now.

A bill, titled H.R. 1981, Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, is being sponsored by Lamar Smith and is considered to be a wide-ranging Internet surveillance bill with many other domineering attempts by the government to invade privacy and control the Internet.

According to David Seaman, a prominent new media advocate, the bill has been named thus so that politicians in the House and Senate are strong-armed into voting for it, even though it contains utterly insane 1984-style Big Brother surveillance provisions.

What makes H.R. 1981 such a grave threat to people's online privacy? Below is a scrap from section 4, regarding the retention of private records:

A commercial provider of an electronic communication service shall retain for a period of at least one year a log of the temporarily assigned network addresses the provider assigns to a subscriber to or customer of such service that enables the identification of the corresponding customer or subscriber information under subsection (c)(2) of this section.

The Library of Congress Web site summarizes it like this:

Requires a provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service to retain for at least 18 months the temporarily assigned network addresses the service assigns to each account unless that address is transmitted by radio communication. Bars any cause of action against a provider for retaining records as required. Makes a good faith reliance on the requirement to retain records a complete defense to a civil action. Expresses the sense of Congress that such records should be stored securely to protect customer privacy and prevent breaches of the records.

A report in Venture Beat said H.R. 1981 would alter U.S. code Chapter 18 section 2703 'Required Disclosure of Customer Communications or Records' so that all Internet service providers would need to store your IP address for at least 12 months, along with any highly sensitive personal information such as credit card data.

All these imply that each and every online movement of Internet users will be tracked, stored and even be made accessible not necessarily with any real cause.

Not only law enforcement but also civil litigants in private lawsuits, companies trying to expose and hit back on an anonymous critic and even a divorce lawyer looking for dirty laundry can easily avail data, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

These databases would also be a new and valuable target for black hat hackers, be they criminals trying to steal identities or foreign governments trying to unmask anonymous dissidents, EFF added.

C-30, It's Canadian Counterpart

The bill, submitted last year, closely resembles the Canadian bill named C-30 that also made headlines recently.

C-30, introduced by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, widens the now unlawful personal data archiving to mobile carriers and also empowers any police officer to use the data without a warrant under exceptional circumstances.

The introduction of the bill was followed by huge public outrage with millions of Twitter users criticizing Toews and hacker group Anonymous later revealing his personal data, including initimate details of his divorce, Venture Beat reported.

The report also cited a recent interview of Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, in which she described the Canadian bill as disingenuous, referring to its alleged focus on child pornography.

You can infer, by connecting the dots of the surfing habits online, a great deal of very personal information about an individual. And I object to that kind of information being accessible without a warrant, said Cavoukian.

All these concerns that Cavoukian raised about Bill C-30 are also applicable to the H.R. 1981 in the U.S. as well. As American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, it would create a sweeping new provision requiring Internet companies (email, cloud, social networking, and more) to collect and retain hundreds of millions of records about the identity of online users.

ACLU said the bill, H.R. 1981, the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, - if only it were that narrow! - is a direct assault on the privacy of Internet users and overlooks some key fixes that could actually help to address the very real problem of child exploitation.

According to WebProNews, it's nothing but a giant turd in cotton candy sponsored by Smith, who seems hell bent on destroying the internet.

Anonymous Against H.R. 1981 and Smith

Hacker group Anonymous posted multiple tweets early Monday showing their protest against against the bill and the author himself.

*ATTENTION* Don't Let Congress Order Internet Companies to Spy on You: Oppose HR1981 Data Retention Bill, Anonymous tweeted.

Here are some more tweets from the hacker group:

HR 1981 will force ISPs to collect Internet user data into a massive database accessible to the govt anytime.

Lamar Smith's HR 1981 (#PCIP) bill must meet a fate worse than SOPA's. We must unite yet again and stop this bill.

Seriously. People in TX 21st Congressional District need to #UnseatLamar in 2012 elections. Can we please oust the SOPA/1981 author?

Contact Lamar Smith, #1 enemy of the Internet. Tell him that if he wants Round 2 with us via HR1981, he'll get it

Watch the video below that explains H.R. 1981 in-depth. For more information on the bill click here.

UPDATE: Anonymous' Friday Hacks: Dayton Ohio Chapter of InfraGard Hacked, Confidential Materials Deleted

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