Electronic Frontier Foundation
July 23, 2011
The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering H.R. 1981, a bill that would order all of our online service providers to keep new logs about our online activities, logs to help the government identify the web sites we visit and the content we post online. This sweeping new “mandatory data retention” proposal treats every Internet user like a potential criminal and represents a clear and present danger to the online free speech and privacy rights of millions of innocent Americans.
Tell your Representative to oppose this dangerous bill, before this week’s critical vote.
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.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Such addresses, like the Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned to your cable modem by your cable company, or to your laptop by a wireless router, can be used to identify who visited particular websites or posted particular content online–threatening your right to privately browse the web and to speak and read anonymously when you’re online.
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 expensive 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information would then be available to the government, in secret and without any court oversight, based on weak and outdated electronic privacy laws.
That same data would also be available to civil litigants in private lawsuits–whether it’s the RIAA trying to identify downloaders, a company trying to uncover and retaliate against an anonymous critic, or a divorce lawyer looking for dirty laundry. 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.
The House Judiciary Committee is about to hold a critical vote that will determine whether this dangerous, mass-spying proposal moves forward or not, and the bill could soon be on the House floor for a final vote. Demand that your Representative protect your online privacy and free speech rights by opposing H.R. 1981.