SAFE Act 2007, what a clusterfark. Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-online. This bill was rushed through the House of Rep's, and when I say rushed, I mean rushed! It was sent through the House of Rep's using a mechanism that is supposed to be reserved for non-confrontational bills. On top of that it passed almost unanimously. If I remember correctly, it passed 409 to 2. The two people who didn't vote for it were both republicans, one of whom is Ron Paul (gee, I still cant decide if he's just a classic libertarian or someone who actually does his job).
What is the Aim of this bill? Well, its lofty goal is to help stop the aquisition and spread of child pornography. Holy sh*t! I'll vote for that! Wait, whats that? People that own private (home) wireless access points might be held accountable by this law? The law doesn't clearly define what an "obscene" image is? The law gives no indication on how business or private parties should comply with the law? Hu?... Gee this bill sucks!
Don't get me wrong. The exploitation of children in this way is wrong (though what is considered a child? It is definitely not the arbitrary 18y/o cut off). I am all for ways to responsibly take care of this problem. But the way the bill is worded is kinda like whipping the doorman when something is stolen from the third floor.
The bill states that anyone that operates a wireless access point (ANYONE!) is responsible for reporting any obscene images that go through that wireless access point to the proper authorities. When was the last time YOU monitored the wireless trafic through your wireless router? Never? Didn't think so. Most people who own wireless routers wouldn't know how to monitor it to begin with. To bad for them, if someone hacks their wireless account and is caught dl'ing "obscene" (more on that in a moment) images and you didnt tell anyone, your out $150,000 for the first offense, and $300,000 for any subsequent offenses (not including possible jail time).
But that can't happen to you right? It's not like you have an open wireless network available for everyone to use. You use encryption, your safe (hahaha... safe....). Besides, if someone hacks my encryption (and they will if they want to) then im not at fault, right? Um no... the bill makes no distinction between being a victim of hacking and an open WAP. The data went through your router, your liable.
Not only do you have to report the incident, but you have to keep the data! All of it! And by all, i mean any identifying information (because we all know that a computer account and IP address is the same thing as DNA.... *cough*) and any other data that was being accessed at the time the obscene image was viewed. Umm... will the US government be buying terabyte hard drives for every starbucks or coffee shop with a wireless access point to store this information on? I don't think so. I know they wont buy me one even though I've asked them for one every year at christmas... (my representative wants my vote, he better get me a darn hard drive...).
So many things wrong with this bill, but the last one I'll touch on is the definition of obscenity. Go ahead, describe it to yourself. Out loud, in words. I dare you. It is so hard that Supreme court Justice Potter Stuart in 1964 said "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it . . ." (he said this while trying to explain hard-core pornography, and what "obscene" means).
Well gee thanks, that really cleared up the matter for me. So then the pic of my Niece in her bathing suite at the beach with her family isn't obscene, right? Well, as long as no one thinks it is... as long as no one complains... as long as no one hates me and wants to ruin my life and try's to get me arrested for having "obscene" photos of a child... (you laugh, but this day is comming. It already bad enough that, according to a TimesOnline article (link) in June of 2007, "Men are refusing to volunteer to work with children because they are frightened of being labeled a pedophile").
So batten down the hatches. Break out your un-rememberable WPA passwords, all the extra hard drives you have lying around your closet, and your tinfoil hats. This year is gonna suck.
Note: as of my last checkup this still hasn't been made into a law. But the ease of which it passed through the senate i dont have much hope that it will be shot down or forgotten...
- Please, wont someone think of the children?...