Lamar Smith: Enemy Of The Internet? Defends Internet Snooping Bill

from the stop-smith dept

Before the SOPA mess heated up last year, we were just as worried about Rep. Lamar Smith’s other ridiculous bill, in which he sought to hide massive data retention rules — effectively requiring every online service provider to keep reams of data about users… and hid it all under a totally bogus claim that it was to “protect children from internet pornographers.” This is the most cynical and obnoxious form of lawmaking: to pass something that is incredibly bad and dangerous and pretend that you’re doing so to “protect the children from child porn” when the actual bill will do nothing of the sort. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who saw through Smith’s ruse (as she did with SOPA as well), actually offered up an amendment to more accurately call the bill the “Keep Every American’s Digital Data for Submission to the Federal Government Without a Warrant Act of 2011,” but that got rejected.

Unfortunately, the bill, HR 1981, has already been voted out of committee (something that was successfully stopped with SOPA), so it could come to the floor at any time. As he did with SOPA opposition, Smith’s staff is dismissing the online criticism of the bill, insisting is not as big as people are making it out to be… and that the complaints about the bill are not accurate. Yet, Demand Progress says that it has already received over 90,000 signatures against the bill, and lots of others are speaking out against it. Just as with SOPA, the opposition to such a bad bill does not fall along traditional political lines. You’ve got DailyKos on the left speaking out against it as well as patriot groups and Ron Paul supporters. And, of course, Reddit has been active as well.

In many ways this bill is significantly worse than SOPA, in that it not only creates a massive new problem for all internet companies, in that they would need to retain all sorts of data, but that it tries to hide it behind a claim that this is for protection against child porn — something no politician wants to vote against. The costs of maintaining all this info can be quite large, but more importantly, this is the exact opposite of a privacy bill. It’s an anti-privacy bill, because the more data that a company has to collect and retain, the more likely it is to leak or be accessed by someone who shouldn’t have it (including the government — which was the point of Lofgren’s attempted renaming). Furthermore, the bill does absolutely nothing about the problem it actually claims to be targeting. Nothing in the bill would actually slow or stop child pornographers. The whole name is a red herring to try to get the bill through.

Between this and SOPA, it seems that people should start asking: is Lamar Smith the most anti-internet elected official in the US right now? He’s got to be up there if he’s not at the top.

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Comments on “Lamar Smith: Enemy Of The Internet? Defends Internet Snooping Bill”

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Rapnel (profile) says:

Sharing Goverment Style

Another important element of this bill would allow access to these stores of information with an administrative subpoena. Not to mention the inclusion of the requisite exclusion from liability for the ISP.

(google cached doc re: report of adm. subpoena usage: )

This guy is quickly setting the bar for “domestic enemy”.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Lamar Smith: Moron

Not only is he the most ‘anti-internet’ person in Congress, he just doesn’t learn from experience.
He really just does not get it, and we’ll have to slap him upside the head again, and again-until we shake his brain to function again.
That is, if he has one to begin with. Kinda of doubt that, from what he’s done so far.
I would hope to all the stars that this is an election year for him, that the voters in Texas finally get smart and kick him to the curb.
He’s done nothing good so far for either them or this country-he even beats GW Bush as the worst elected official from Texas in my books.
That’s saying something. I loathed Bush.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

A commercial provider of an electronic communication service shall retain for a period of at least one year a log of the temporarily assigned network addresses the provider assigns to a subscriber to or customer of such service that enables the identification of the corresponding customer or subscriber information under subsection (c)(2) of this section.

Is this what you meant by massive data retention? It seems reasonable to me that people shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind dynamic IP addresses. Of course I would assume anyone really looking for kidporn uses anonymizers. But just in case law enforcement gets its hands on an actual server or is able to snoop on their connections I’d want them to be able to backtrace as many IPs addys as they can.

But when you say “massive data retention” I’m thinking logging of every URI, deep packet inspection, etc. Did I miss something?

Anonymous Coward says:

Lamar Smith: Moron

Trust me, he may not understand the fine workings of the internet, but he gets it.

In some ways the internet is about balance.

It provides some measure of competition that allows free market forces to work more naturally.

It allows people to more accurately participate in the governmental process to make it easier for it to work “for the people”.

It allows for ideas in philosophy and religion to flourish and be more easily sharable.

This goes completely in the face of beliefs of people like Smith, who think business, government, or religion should be controlled from a small elite at the top trickling down to everyone else at the bottom.

CN says:

End sneaky politics

Can someone start a we the people petition to have new rules regarding the naming of bills? (I’m not an American, so I presume I can’t do it.) Not that this is unique to the USA, but naming bills “Save the children” when it’s about “killing puppies” should not be legal. Nor should attaching unrelated things, like telecommunications on a fishery management bill, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

End sneaky politics

Nor should attaching unrelated things, like telecommunications on a fishery management bill, etc.

This, along with the closely related idea of Presidential line-item vetoes, is a sticky issue. In principle, I agree that a bill that’s nothing more than an administrative budget to pay military personnel shouldn’t have a line item that allows the unlimited detention of American citizens without a trial (looking at you, NDAA).

However, the reason it’s sticky is because to put it bluntly, this is how bills get passed:
“Bob, I’m not going to vote for your bill.”
“Well, Mike, how about if we add on a line that gives your freeway project a budget. Would you vote for it then?”
“OK, Sure.”

If we didn’t allow this sort of thing, we’d never get any bills passed in Congress ever again.

RedMage says:

To be fair

In fairness, I don’t see this one passing. Sources have said that it’s stalled, it hasn’t been introduced in the Senate, and it doesn’t have the massive money machine that SOPA and PIPA did in the form of the entertainment lobby. Even the corporate stooges who backed SOPA like John Conyers are speaking out against it. I also don’t think they’ll be as eager to push this one after the PIPA and SOPA protests.

Anonymous Coward says:


I think you’re missing the way the 4th amendment has been interpreted. Once the ISP obtains the data, legally compelled to do so or no, there are no 4th amendment protections for it anymore. That combined with what other data is being retained elsewhere is what makes this the “Keep Every American’s Digital Data for Submission to the Federal Government Without a Warrant Act of 2011.”

Al Bert (profile) says:

oh this finally showed up

I was wondering when you guys would catch wind of this one. When i first heard about it, i figured it might be a joke. After all, it’s such an absurd convergence of Lamar smith, a near-orwellian bill designation, and Orwellian intent conspicuously disguised as an anti-child-porn bill. Why are these fraudsters taken seriously?

Make no mistake. Lamar Smith et al are not mere enemies of the internet. These criminals are enemies of the public.

Al Bert (profile) says:

To be fair

Well of course some of the congresstooges back off now after the SOPA publicity. That doesn’t mean Smith and others won’t run with it.

Some criminals prefer to run and hide when you catch them in the act. Other criminals will redouble their efforts and focus directly on you. Just because some of the stooges are ‘runners’ doesn’t mean we don’t have an infestation of cheap criminals.

That said, the bill does seem a bit too ridiculous for them. This doesn’t mean it’s not a hazard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Can someone PLEASE vote this idiot out already?! Or at least give him a hands-on example of collateral damage?

First SOPA, now HR 1981.

I was wondering when the data retention bill would be brought up here again considering the last mention of it was back in July. Of course, with SOPA, ACTA, TPP and other acronyms against internet freedom have taken the forefront, it’s not surprising.

Are we seriously going to have to contend with Mr. “I can’t hear you” for another term? I’m starting to lose hope that we can actually win this time. The blackout was one thing, but that strategy only works once.

I also find it funny that Smith thinks that this will be able to protect your data: “(1) to encourage electronic communication service providers to give prompt notice to their customers in the event of a breach of the data retained pursuant to section 2703(h) of title 18 of the United States Code, in order that those effected can take the necessary steps to protect themselves from potential misuse of private information; and (2) that records retained pursuant to section 2703(h) of title 18, United States Code, should be stored securely to protect customer privacy and prevent against breaches of the records.”

Sure. Identity theft is already a problem, but does Mr. “no tech background, but listen to me anyway” really want us to jump through all of those hoops to reclaim our identity if our credit card gets stolen? Pretty sure identity theft victims would agree that it’s too much of a hassle and too time-consuming to reclaim their identity and get their lives back on track. What, hackers get into our data and all the public will get is “Your personal information has been compromised. Please take the necessary steps to change your SSN, credit card numbers, IP address, date of birth, full name, blood type and bank accounts because the government likes to make you suffer.”

And the worst part is (if I understand this correctly. Please tell me otherwise) that if your information DOES get stolen, you can’t blame the government (or Smith). They’ll shift the blame to the ISPs and claim that it was their fault for having faulty safeguards to keep your information safe.

Isn’t there some way we can call Anonymous or some other hacking group, grab Lamar’s SSN and credit card info and post it up with a big message saying “Hi! This is what will happen if H.R. 1981 passes!” That way, he’ll be so focused on damage controlling his own life by going through the process of changing his SSN and credit cards that he’ll be more likely to have his guard down and maybe this will be newsworthy enough to be on the mainstream media.

Just somebody, anybody make him stop.

*breaks down and cries*

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

oh this finally showed up

I was wondering when you guys would catch wind of this one.

Huh? As mentioned in the post we wrote about it last year. We caught wind of it back when it first came out. We hadn’t written about it lately, because it’s pretty much dead in the water. but with his staff commenting on it, and with the Demand Progress effort, it was worth commenting on again.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Can someone PLEASE vote this idiot out already?! Or at least give him a hands-on example of collateral damage?

You make a number of excellent points: but having your credit card number exposed for easy theft is one of the least worrisome consequences of this bill.

Among the many, MANY serious problems with it: there’s no way to distinguish between the trail of data left by an adult and the trail left by a child — on a technological level, that is. Therefore there does not exist an automated method for discarding that data, therefore that data will be retained, therefore it will be accessible to anyone who successfully penetrates the logging system. (Or to anyone who buys data from someone who penetrated the logging system.)

Your 13-year-old daughter doesn’t have a credit card. But she has a computer with a web browser. Can you think of anyone who would be very, very interested in knowing where she’s spending her time online?

Anonymous Coward says:

Lamar Smith for HR 1981 Webpage

“Hi! I’m Representative Lamar Smith! I’m trying to pass a bill deemed “controversial” by technological experts that don’t know what they’re talking about. I clearly have more understanding than they ever will despite my lack of a tech background.

When this bill passes, children will be protected by pornography by “your government” retaining very sensitive personal data that will no doubt give hackers a bigger target for identity theft. If by any chance your data is compromised, rest assured it’s the Internet Service Provider’s fault for not having better security and we share no blame whatsoever even if we’re the ones who passed this law in the first place.

To show that I am a true champion of the public, I will now give my own personal information to do with what you see fit.

My Credit and Debit card numbers: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

In interest of fair play, be assured that your personal information too will be easily accessible by hackers. Please support HR 1981 and re-elect me for 2012!

-This webpage officially endorsed by Lamar Smith”

Anonymous Coward says:

is there nothing this prick wont do to get one of his ridiculous Bills passed? is there nothing this prick wont do to take away peoples privacy? is there nothing this prick wont do to declare his total stupidity? is there nothing this prick wont do to get himself into the history books as the most internet ignorant person on the planet?

PaulT (profile) says:

End sneaky politics

“this is how bills get passed”

This is exactly what the point was, I believe. Saying “well, cronyism and bribery are how things are done in Washington” does not make it the *right* way to do things.

“If we didn’t allow this sort of thing, we’d never get any bills passed in Congress ever again.”

If it’s a choice between bad bills that restrict freedoms and don’t achieve what they claim to achieve, and no bills at all, is that a bad thing?

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