WiFi spy bill isn’t Net nirvana—but isn’t as bad as CNET said (updated)
December 7, 2007 | 3:27 am
“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.” – CNET.
The TeleRead take: After posting an earlier version of this item, I found a much better article by Nate Anderson at Ars Technica, which makes clear that the present bill doesn’t require wireless providers to go out of their way to look for such images. CNET columnist Declan McCullagh was out of date or more likely applied or picked up some spin. As Nick has pointed out, the bill does not specifically mention wireless. I’m surprised that Declan, a specialist in privacy issues, didn’t represent the bill better. A little libertarian ideology at work here? I prefer to link to source material, and this is a case where that would have helped.
The e-book angle: That said, the bill (aimed at child porn) could be a wedge in the future for something more restrictive and meanwhile still raises questions about its language even now. What’s more, will future legislation require aggressive surveillance? What kind of porn might other versions deliberately cover? Will text eventually be involved? And could this mean e-books?
Related: Bush goes private to spy on you, via AlterNet and NewsTrust. The headline could be a bit over the top. Still, as the Nixon administration showed, it’s hard enough to control the activities of government agencies even without the use of private contractors.
Caveat: No need to take to the barricades in the literal sense! The erosion of civil liberties, including those associated with the Net and e-books, can be a very slow process. But it bears watching—and complaining about.