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:

  1. The government should obtain a warrant before compelling a service provider to disclose an individual’s private online communications.
  2. The government should obtain a warrant before it can track the location of an individual’s wireless communication device.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Comments on “Rep. Lofgren Introduces Global Free Internet Act”

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39 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

60%

The number of persons on the ‘Task Force’ should be 60% or more. If there are 8 folks from the ‘Govmint’, then there should be 12 from the Internet. (I did the math, and in this example getting an absolute 60% is not possible). The point being, that there are allot more of us than of them, so why should they have a majority?

Beyond that, what ‘force’ would a Tack Force have when the Constitution is being ignored?

Seems like grandstanding to me, but kudos to Lofgren for at least heading in something like the right direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

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.

Completely written to protect those in torrent swarms- bit torrent, a protocol used almost exclusively for piracy.

Now you also need to go die in a fire. The world has enough problems without another worthless body roaming around, yet alone a fucking willfully ignorant parasite.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s see w hoboth Republicans and Democrats step over each other to support this bill…because, after all, both have in their 2012 platform that they support “Internet Freedom”, right?

So I see no reason why they wouldn’t be in a hurry to vote for this bill, to gain votes in the election and show people how they actually want to implement the policies and principles described by their platforms.

Anonymous Coward says:

Regulatory capture, here we come

four U.S. persons who are not government employees nominated by the Internet itself.

The bill text says that while the people are nominated by the public, it’s still the president who decides which of those nominations to appoint.

I can picture Biden assuring the **AA that the ‘right’ people will be selected.

Anonymous Coward says:

I love this:

“This bill has a 1% chance of being enacted. The following factors were considered:

The sponsor is a member of the minority party. (-2%)

Just 4% of all House bills in 2009?2010 were enacted.”

Basically, at the house level, 96% of everything that gets proposed gets shot down.

Worse yet, this is a minority party rep trying to push through a bill that has no real support, no widespread base, and no real “hot button” issue to leverage it into the media.

I would say zero chance. The rep could have proposed ham sandwiches for all and gotten more general support – even if certain members would abstain from voting because of their religious views on pork. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Umm, did I say that?

Nope.

The problem here is that it’s easy to write up a bill and introduce it knowing it’s not going anywhere. You can pander to your fan club without having to make due consideration for the implications you are proposing. You don’t have to seek compromise or common ground, you can just write whatever and claim greatness from it. Done properly, those people who support you (in this case Mike) will trumpet your “new law” as something truly great, while knowing that it has no chance of even making it into debate.

The effort is wasted when it’s not done with any intent to pass the law.

As for “huge number of tech companies” last time I looked, companies cannot vote. You guys are always bitching when the content producers support something, don’t you think you should apply the same standard here and bitch about whining, moaning tech companies that want their free lunch?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

From Lofgren’s press release:

“[Lofgren] said she introduced the bills to begin a serious conversation on the future of an open and free Internet. Rep. Lofgren noted the bills are unlikely to be acted upon before the end of the year and said she plans to reintroduce them next year when the newly elected Congress meets.”

So complaining that the bills won’t pass this Congress – which she acknowledges herself – is your contribution to the serious conversation on the future of the Internet. Cool. Also, you have no idea what kind of effort is going on behind the scenes to pass these bills into law. This is bigger than Lofgren.

As for the companies – it’s not just companies that support ECPA reform. If you research the subject at all, you’ll see that a large number of tech think tanks from the ACLU and EFF to FreedomWorks and CATO, also support ECPA reform. It shouldn’t matter if they’re content producers or not, because they’re right – this would be good for privacy and Internet freedom in general. Why not stand up for what’s right instead of just being cynical?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“So complaining that the bills won’t pass this Congress – which she acknowledges herself – is your contribution to the serious conversation on the future of the Internet. “

If she wants to have a discussion, let’s discuss. But wasting the public’s time and money on introducing bills that will never make it doesn’t advance the discussion, it just sinks it down to the level of partisan politics.

Getting people like Mike to crow about new proposed laws isn’t helping either. It adds nothing.

Oh, and EFF is working hard to get discredited, their financing from key Google people, as well as their move away from dealing with situations and moving towards lobbying has pretty much turned them into just another whining one sided partisan mouthpiece. It’s not really saying anything these days to say the EFF support it, you might as well just say “Google supports it” and avoid the middle man.

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