Skip to comments.House vote on illegal images sweeps in Wi-Fi, Web sites
Posted on 12/06/2007 2:39:08 PM PST by LibWhacker
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill saying that anyone offering an open Wi-Fi connection to the public must report illegal images including "obscene" cartoons and drawings--or face fines of up to $300,000.
That broad definition would cover individuals, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, and even some government agencies that provide Wi-Fi. It also sweeps in social-networking sites, domain name registrars, Internet service providers, and e-mail service providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, and it may require that the complete contents of the user's account be retained for subsequent police inspection.
Before the House vote, which was a lopsided 409 to 2, Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) held a press conference on Capitol Hill with John Walsh, the host of America's Most Wanted and Ernie Allen, head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Allen said the legislation--called the Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act, or SAFE Act--will "ensure better reporting, investigation, and prosecution of those who use the Internet to distribute images of illegal child pornography."
The SAFE Act represents the latest in Congress' efforts--some of which have raised free speech and privacy concerns--to crack down on sex offenders and Internet predators. One bill introduced a year ago was even broader and would have forced Web sites and blogs to report illegal images. Another would require sex offenders to supply e-mail addresses and instant messaging user names.
Wednesday's vote caught Internet companies by surprise: the Democratic leadership rushed the SAFE Act to the floor under a procedure that's supposed to be reserved for noncontroversial legislation. It was introduced October 10, but has never received even one hearing or committee vote. In addition, the legislation approved this week has changed substantially since the earlier version and was not available for public review.
Not one Democrat opposed the SAFE Act. Two Republicans did: Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning presidential candidate from Texas, and Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia.
This is what the SAFE Act requires: Anyone providing an "electronic communication service" or "remote computing service" to the public who learns about the transmission or storage of information about certain illegal activities or an illegal image must (a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's "CyberTipline" and (b) "make a report" to the CyberTipline that (c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity and (d) the illegal images themselves. (By the way, "electronic communications service" and "remote computing service" providers already have some reporting requirements under existing law too.)
The definition of which images qualify as illegal is expansive. It includes obvious child pornography, meaning photographs and videos of children being molested. But it also includes photographs of fully clothed minors in overly "lascivious" poses, and certain obscene visual depictions including a "drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting." (Yes, that covers the subset of anime called hentai).
Someone providing a Wi-Fi connection probably won't have to worry about the SAFE Act's additional requirement of retaining all the suspect's personal files if the illegal images are "commingled or interspersed" with other data. But that retention requirement does concern Internet service providers, which would be in a position to comply. So would e-mail service providers, including both Web-based ones and companies that offer POP or IMAP services.
"USISPA has long supported harmonized reporting of child pornography incidents to the (NCMEC). ISPs report over 30,000 incidents a year, and we work closely with NCMEC and law enforcement on the investigation," Kate Dean, head of the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association, said on Wednesday. "We remain concerned, however, that industry would be required to retain images of child pornography after reporting them to NCMEC. It seems like the better approach would be to require the private sector to turn over illicit images and not retain copies."
Failure to comply with the SAFE Act would result in an initial fine of up to $150,000, and fines of up to $300,000 for subsequent offenses. That's the stick. There's a carrot as well: anyone who does comply is immune from civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions.
There are two more points worth noting. First, the vote on the SAFE Act seems unusually rushed. It's not entirely clear that the House Democratic leadership really meant this legislation to slap new restrictions on hundreds of thousands of Americans and small businesses who offer public wireless connections. But they'll nevertheless have to abide by the new rules if senators go along with this idea (and it's been a popular one in the Senate).
The second point is that Internet providers already are required by another federal law to report child pornography sightings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is in turn charged with forwarding that report to the appropriate police agency. So there's hardly an emergency, which makes the Democrats' rush for a vote more inexplicable than usual.
LOL! I don’t think this applies to folks having their bandwidth stolen.
Congress has once again conclusively demonstrated how out of touch it is with reality. Emigration has to be seriously considered.
Kudos to Ron Paul for paying attention. This one is even dumber than Sarbanes-Oxley and the Internet gambling ban.
Exploitation of children is wrong, but this law is unenforceable except by shutting down all public (or even semi-private) networks.
>>Make sure your wireless home networks are properly configured — or go to jail!<<
I do that.
But this sounds like it might kill open Wifi.
A weird vote from a weird Congress. Keep your hands off my internet content Pelosi.
This is not about “saving teens”, imo, this is about regulating net communications content.
“There are two more points worth noting. First, the vote on the SAFE Act seems unusually rushed. It’s not entirely clear that the House Democratic leadership really meant this legislation to slap new restrictions on hundreds of thousands of Americans and small businesses who offer public wireless connections. But they’ll nevertheless have to abide by the new rules if senators go along with this idea (and it’s been a popular one in the Senate).
The second point is that Internet providers already are required by another federal law to report child pornography sightings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is in turn charged with forwarding that report to the appropriate police agency. So there’s hardly an emergency, which makes the Democrats’ rush for a vote more inexplicable than usual.”
This is pure BS !..a Last desperate act by a useless good for nothing dimRAT congress to pass anything so they can say they had a successful year...No one read this bill, it was never read in Commission even !..then suddenly it is on the HOuse floor and passes overwhelmingly. Talk about taking away people’s freedoms..Yes it clamps down on the worst porn but it also takes a huge bite out of personal freedom and is a set up by the dimRATS to probe even more into people’s personal lives...They will say that if you oppose this you are one of ‘those’ !...Sorry, not one of those and will not be duped....
I don’t see how this would pass the first court test.
It would require the wi-fi providers to become policemen and scrutinize every bit that passes through the wi-fi connection.
Or shut down, or go to a paid subscription so that every user is logged, known, regulated, watched, with an indemnification contract.
I think the bill also broadens the definition of illegal image past child porn (from reading the article, I have not read the bill).
H. R. 3791, go to http://thomas.loc.gov and get a copy.
You couldn’t. I can drive down the street of almost any neighborhood in America and find (inadvertently) open networks on every block. This bill is just going to sweep up a lot of innocent people into Big Brother’s maw.
If I were a legit business offering my customers open wifi, I’d shut it down before hiring people to examine every downloaded image. The only alternative would be to charge your customers, make them open accounts, and store their every mouse click in perpetuity.
That makes no difference. If you are a registered Democrat there is no need for any concern whatsover; Her Highness will not go after you.
OTOH, if you have ANY conservative connections or if you've EVER posted on FR, you'll be prosecuted to the FULLEST extent of the LAW!
Or painting? Yikes. Here on FR in a thread discussing the new Christmas stamp someone posted Leonardo di Vinci's painting of Madonna and Child with a Carnation instead of Luini's The Madonna of the Carnation (which was used on this year's stamp). Leonardo's painting had Jesus naked. Yep, right here on FR "Divine Child Porn".
Imagine the ISP or local Wi-Fi provider of every single Freeper viewing that thread having to examine that painting and determine "Child porn or legitimate artwork".
Damn Rats are undermining American freedom one step at a time.
And they don't want wire tapping "my a$$"..
"In Sable...we remarked that the speech restriction at issue there amounted to " 'burn[ing] the house to roast the pig.' " The CDA, casting a far darker shadow over free speech, threatens to torch a large segment of the Internet community."
"The record demonstrates that the growth of the Internet has been and continues to be phenomenal. As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship."
Yep, it’s totally unenforceable, as you said. But the idiots will probably keep trying though until they get something workable, but no doubt equally objectionable.
Imagine the cities like S.Francisco who are working to cover the entire city area under an open wi-fi connection. How in the world will they monitor an entire city’s internet connections?
I believe this won’t past Constitutional muster. the Supreme Court struck down the CDA, there is no way that this bill as written now will hold up to muster if the CDA case is used as a priori.
The bill states: Anyone providing an "electronic communication service" or "remote computing service" to the public who learns about the transmission or storage of information about certain illegal activities or an illegal image must (a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's "CyberTipline" and (b) "make a report" to the CyberTipline that (c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity and (d) the illegal images themselves.
The key word here is "Learns". I take that to mean discovered or found out by either deliberately reading my users traffic or inadvertently discovering such while preforming something like intrusion detection or traffic analysis.
I will not read the users data or traffic deliberately as that would violate other laws. So they only way this would come to my attention as an ISP employee, etc, would be inadvertently.
How they gonna prove I "learned" of it?
For my users, my motto is what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Don't ask, don't tell. Now if you get caught because you're violating the rules or are extremely blatant about it, that's another thing, but I don't see ISPs being forced to spy on their customers in this bill.
Would you offer free wifi service under these draconian penalties and rules? How are they going to monitor this and keep logs and copies?
I suspect you can say goodbye to working on the internet for free at your local coffee shop or restaurant.
My guess is that Pelosi and company got a large donation from somewhere.
Who profit$ if that happens?
If New York passed a particular law last year, it is against the law in NY to have an unsecured wi-fi.
Depends on your setup.
Most home wireless AP’s can be configured to only use a certain range of IP addresses or to only respond to certain MAC addresses. Start off by using WEP encryption, and if you still detect somebody stealing bandwidth, tighten the screws down.
If most of this sounds Greek to you, hire a professional or talk to your ISP.
Don't you think that's really the point? 409 to 2? What's the biggest threat to our legislators comfortable positions? The way the Internet is revolutionizing politics!The fewer people who can get on line and search out the facts for themselves, the safer our congress-critters will be...
Right here where I'm sitting, I have FOUR different unsecured wireless networks that come up on my computer.
I know who two of them belong to, but as for the other two, I have no earthly idea. They didn't even bother to give the network a name, let alone secure it.
What you are saying is that a busness offering WiFi to its customers is a totally different setup than the home wireless connections I have. In the business setup is there a server on site that the connection goes through? Just asking because I have no idea how they work.
I predict that those who enjoy child pornography will now start their own ISPs, and conform fully to the SAFE act, thus obtaining safe harbor for “retaining” child porn.
Some networks have stealth mode where you can choose to not broadcast the network name.
This is just an ordinary suburban neighborhood, lots about 3/4 acre, people on both sides of us and across the street. Clearly lots of folks have these wireless systems and just plug and play.
Does this put any responsibility on you to know exactly what they do and don’t consider “offensive”? If I’m reading this correctly, you’ll have to transmit them a copy of the images, and then report yourself for doing it (and include another copy of the images), lather, rinse repeat....
Can you get to an option screen for your wireless AP? Are you using the default gateway number of 192.168.0.1?
Without knowing the setup you have, I can’t tell ya exactly what you can or can’t do. My router will:
block certain MAC’s
Hard assign IP addresses to certain MAC’s
allow me to change the default router (192.168.0.1) address
allow stealth mode, where the machine trying to connect has to know the MAC address of the router
about four more options I haven’t even tried playing with
My set up at home is quite fine and protected from outside access. I just posed the question ... how would I know (if I were not using protection) what someone sent over it? I just thought a commercial WiFi connection would be like my home connection ... how would they know what use their WiFi connection was being used for?
Thankfully, today's laptops make that a snap. You can even buy t-shirts that light up when you get close to a wi-fi network. But personally, when I make a connection, I couldn't tell you whether it was peer-to-peer or a client/server setup.
I don't have a home network myself. I'm surprised that you can't tell when someone is using your network, or what they're doing with it. Just another reason I'll probably put off going wireless in this house!
The idea is that you're responsible for any usage on your own WiFi router. It's as though you assume responsibility of someone steals your car and then goes forth to commit crimes with it.
But they'll ram it through anyway. If it perchance gets defeated on the floor, it will reappear as a rider on every unrelated bill until it passes in some unguarded midnight moment. Just as with all the Hollywood-uber-alles copyright legislation, we will have rely on the pirates and hackers to save our last shreds of freedom.
Unless they have some kind of logging function turned on or a sniffer, they wouldn’t.
If there are records, it would be at the ISP itself.
Just like a phone, a wireless connection is simply a pipe. It doesn’t remember what you said or who you talked to.
Thanks that is what I thought. So the onus is on the IP not the WiFi provider?
I would say so, yes. Because no actual content info is stored on the wi-fi equipment. No pictures, no emails, nada.
Now some providers might have proxy servers built in for caching and/or DNS resolution but my guess would be that for wireless setups like McDonalds or whatever, that’d be very few if any.
A simple 802.11 setup could easily handle the volume for a dozen or so users without even breaking a sweat, so there’s little need for that kind of equipment at a local wifi hotspot.
Follow the money.
I like your analysis, it looks good. I still dislike it; it seems like the beginnings of a bad law. First they’ll pass the unenforceable law, then “add teeth” later.
“The fewer people who can get on line and search out the facts for themselves,”
I’ve always seen Thomas from LOC as a huge threat. It used to take a week or more to get the text of a bill (call the rep, wait for the mail), and usually get it after the bill was voted on.
Now, it takes a second.
You’re in the clear. You’re not “offering” it to “the public”.
This seems pretty unenforceable. It says “learns”, so businesses who provide these connections could just say they didn’t “learn” of it. If they do somehow catch a person looking at child porn, then they’ll have to report it.
If it's not locked down the person may, in fact, be considered to be "offering it to the public".
Unfortunately, home routers have no ability to monitor or log data, just connections and DHCP requests, and ANY home router security measure (i.e. no broadcast; WEP; WPA; MAC address filtering) can be spoofed or defeated. In fact, I can do it myself given sufficient time.
That said, this measure shouldn't threaten a home wireless network operator who enables the usual (if ineffective) security measures.