H.R. Bill 1981— spearheaded by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)—would force ISPs to store user data for 18 months. Data that could then be accessed by police and federal authorities.
H.R. Bill 1981 is a piece of Orwellian legislation. It might be morally cloaked as the “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011,” but its powers could be extended far beyond that ostensible purpose.
It would, in essence, provide the legal framework for federal, state and local authorities to usurp the 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures. In the future, it could be used for the government to collect information on activists and dissidents and anyone else who doesn’t necessarily agree with America’s transformation into a corporate democracy.
H.R. 1981 would impose sweeping requirements on a broad swath of online service providers to keep new records on all of their customers, just in case the police ever want to investigate any of them. In particular, the bill would require any “provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service” to keep for at least 18 months a record of which users were assigned to particular network addresses at particular times…
Mandatory data retention would force your ISP–and your workplace, your school, your library, your corner coffee-shop with free WiFi, and anyone else that offers you internet access–to create vast and expansive new databases of sensitive information about you. That information would then be available to the government, in secret and without any court oversight, based on weak and outdated electronic privacy laws.
Recently, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) halted the progress of H.R. 1981 because, as he said in a hearing, “This bill needs a lot of fixing up… it’s not ready for prime time.” Translation: It’s not powerful and intrusive enough. (Sensenbrenner himself is a rather Orwellian figure—all porcine fat and jowels a-flutter, pinkish skin hues and girth of pork belly.)
As you will recall, Sensenbrenner—as reported by CNET—was the first legislator to propose such legislation back in 2006. The proposed legislation provided that those ISPs that did not oblige the government’s mandatory data retention laws would be fined and possibly imprisoned up to one year.
Five years have passed since Sensenbrenner’s vision of mandatory data retention was first floated in Congress—meaning, he’s been patient. And if he’s that patient, surely he can wait a while longer for H.R. 1981 to be as powerful as it can possibly be. (Note that Democrats are in support of this legislation as well.)
If the true aim isn’t immediately apparent in H.R. Bill 1981, simply take a look at the subcommittee wherein it’s currently being discussed—the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.