Remember the controversy over the past couple of months surrounding the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that was seemingly quelled by the protest of thousands of Internet users and the subsequent blackout of several major websites? Though the tweets, posts and online news stories regarding Internet freedom have waned greatly, the threat to freedom and any level of online privacy persists.
Perhaps it is a product of our always-on news cycle or our constant bombardment with entertainment distractions, but Americans as a whole have a very short attention span when it comes to fighting against threats to our liberty. When lawmakers such as Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — author of SOPA — draft legislation that deliberately takes away Americans’ freedom and privacy, they do so with a plan.
Smith and his legislative cohorts knew very well that SOPA and PIPA, two bills that screamed censorship and the antithesis of American values, would make American Internet users and free-speech advocates uneasy; that’s why the Texas legislator drafted a backup bill. The bill’s alphabet-soup acronym is PCFIPA (H.R. 1981), which stands for something that all Americans would likely support “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers.” By amending existing laws that give U.S. Marshals the power to issue subpoenas and pursue fugitives, the bill will give Federal authorities access to your every move when using the Internet or Internet-based device. That’s every email, click, text message, password, online financial transaction, etc.
Internet service providers (ISPs) already keep track of some information, but Smith’s bill requires the ISP to retain every move of every individual using the Internet for 18 months, according to IT World. This means that the Feds would have an ever-evolving pool of data pertaining to every Internet-using American to bait with the thousands of Federal laws and regulations on the books and fish until they find some semblance of criminal activity.
Smith — like any good bureaucrat — is using child pornography as a straw man to impose tyranny. By assuming that every American is a child pornographer, the bill compiles a list of every online action and makes every person guilty until proven innocent.
IT World says of the bill: “Since it is empowering U.S. Marshals to investigate people who have not yet been convicted, under PCFIPA, the only thing required to get a valid subpoena to examine all the online activity of 99.762 percent of the U.S. population, is an investigating officer willing to say the subpoena has something to do with investigation of online child porn.”
“The bill is mislabeled,” Representative John Conyers (D-MI) told CNET. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”
SOPA, PIPA and PCFIPA are all pretty nasty attempts by the U.S. government to unleash its crushing regulatory power on the Internet, but there is another threat to internet freedom and privacy. Critics of the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) say the agreement has all of the markers of an evil plot in a movie based on a group of world leaders and corporate interests bent on eliminating communication among their proles to control all production, communication and information. ACTA is supposed to be an international agreement that protects copyright holders against piracy by establishing an international legal framework for targeting counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet. The law would use an international organization — such as the World Trade Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization or the United Nations — to carry out its task.
ACTA has not been widely discussed in U.S. media, likely because negotiations regarding the measure were held in secret. It was signed quietly by the United States in October 2011 without the approval of Congress, the Supreme Court or the American public. Tokyo, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea also signed the treaty, while the European Union, Mexico and Switzerland plan to do so in the near future, according to International Business Times. When the measure is finalized, ACTA can be used to crack down on Internet activity worldwide by a coordinated authority that rests outside of any country.
If you’re concerned about Internet freedom and privacy, don’t worry, President Barack Obama has your back — much like he did when it came to the indefinite detention provision in the National Defense Authorization Act. Last week, the Administration issued a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” and said that individuals should be allowed to opt out of corporate Internet tracking. No word yet on whether the White House will call for the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, CIA, U.S. Marshals or international spy agencies to allow Internet users to opt out of tracking by Big Brother anytime soon. Our guess is likely not.