Rep. Lofgren Introduces Global Free Internet Act
from the needed,-but-unlikely dept
Rep. Zoe Lofgren has recently announced two brand new, but important bills (pdf): there’s HR 6529, which is an ECPA reform act and HR 6530, the Global Internet Freedom Act. The ECPA reform effort is one we’ve discussed a few times recently. It’s much needed, but law enforcement officials are pushing back against it because it would require them to get warrants before spying on electronic communications — which is something they don’t want at all. Here’s what the bill would do according to Lofgren’s fact sheet:
- The government should obtain a warrant before compelling a service provider to disclose an individual’s private online communications.
- The government should obtain a warrant before it can track the location of an individual’s wireless communication device.
- Before it can install a pen register or trap and trace device to capture real time transactional data about when and with whom an individual communicates using digital services (such as email or mobile phone calls), the government should demonstrate to a court that such data is relevant to a criminal investigation.
- The government should not use an administrative subpoena to compel service providers to disclose transactional data about multiple unidentified users of digital services (such as a bulk request for the names and addresses of everyone that visited a particular website during a specified time frame). The government may compel this information through a warrant or court order, but subpoenas should specify the individuals about whom the government seeks information.
All of these seem perfectly reasonable — but given how hard law enforcement has fought against earlier ECPA reforms, it seems unlikely it’ll go anywhere.
The Free Internet effort is also important, obviously, if a bit more vague. Lofgren’s summary:
The Global Free Internet Act would create a Task Force on the Global Internet that identifies, prioritizes, and develops a response to policies and practices of the U.S. government, foreign governments, or international bodies that deny fair market access to Internet-related goods and services, or that threaten the technical operation, security, and free flow of global Internet communications. Members of the Task Force include the heads of several executive branch agencies, four U.S. persons nominated by Congressional leadership, and four U.S. persons who are not government employees nominated by the Internet itself. The Task Force would hold public hearings, issue reports no less than annually, and coordinate the activity of the U.S. government to respond to threats to the Internet. When the next SOPA-like legislation, restrictive international trade agreement, or overbroad treaty from an international body becomes a threat, it is the job of this Task Force to sound the alarm and propose a course of action
This is basically something that the government probably should have done a while ago, if it truly believed in the importance of an open and free internet… which is exactly why it, too, seems unlikely. And, of course, bills introduced at this point are unlikely to go very far, seeing as Congress is out of session for election season, only to come back briefly for a lame duck session after the election. It would be great if these bills got some attention, but unfortunately they’re unlikely to do much this time around. Hopefully Lofgren introduces similar bills next year too.