Saving the Internet for Business: Data Retention vs Rights Retention

by Robin Harris on Saturday, 15 April, 2006

The special interest attack on the Internet continues. Even as America falls further behind other industrialized countries in broadband penetration and network providers pursue plans to charge content providers for quality access, a new threat is emerging. According to an article in CNet, the Bush administration and some law enforcement agencies favor forcing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to retain for lengthy periods, sometimes even years, their logs and other other data.

Why should SMB’s care? To the extent that the Internet enables SMB’s to broaden their market access, a free and healthy Internet is important. Unsurprisingly a number of powerful groups have found ways they could profit if the Internet was a little less free and healthy.

The latest is law enforcement. Under the guise of apprehending child pornographers a number of law enforcement officials are advocating data retention laws. Child pornography stinks and traffickers and consumers should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

What I have a problem with is a Congress that won’t lift a finger to protect consumers from the far more prevalent problem of identity fraud by asking three large companies to institute some simple procedures, while rushing to implement far more intrusive laws, affecting thousands of businesses and the confidence consumers have in this world-changing infrastructure.

Bad government is the single biggest evil in the world and has been throughout recorded history. The genius of the US constitution is that its system of checks and balances as well as its guarantee of individual rights limit the ability of the government to do evil. Erode those rights and weaken those checks and balances and you make it easier for the government to do evil.

I suspect the biggest problem with our child pornography enforcement is not the lack of ISP data, but the lack of funding. Let’s fix that problem first and then see what else is needed.

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