House Passes SAFE Act — Do You Feel Safer?by Brad Warbiany
Have a small business offering wifi access? Have a home wireless connection that you’ve not secured? Well, consider yourself “deputized”. You may not know how to even track your who is using your internet connection, but you may soon be legally required to do so:
What’s SAFE? It stands for the Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online Act, and its reach could be unprecedented. Namely, it holds that anyone offering any public electronic communications service (including an open Wi-Fi connection or internet kiosk) must create a sort of dossier on anyone they suspect might be viewing child pornography over their network and submit it to the government. (Presumably the culprit would have to be caught in the act; the bill doesn’t really say.) The service provider will also have to maintain an archive of all the suspect’s files for use as evidence.
It sounds bad at first, but the definition of child pornography in this case is especially surprising. Per Cnet’s Declan McCullagh, the definition of such images include those featuring fully-clothed children in “lascivious” poses and even drawings of such obsenity. (That would include the popular form of hentai anime.)
Failure to comply could result in a first-offense fine of $150,000 and $300,000 after that. That means every library, coffee shop, and even private homes that offer open wireless access could face crushing penalties if they don’t eavesdrop on their clientèle. In other words: The government wants you to do its dirty work and play Big Brother on its behalf. Creepy.
Yep. You’d better know what people are using your internet connection for, or you might be in trouble. The government doesn’t have the time nor resources to catch criminals on their own, so you need to do it for them!
Personally, while this might get a lot of airtime, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. A government too incompetent to catch criminals on their own will most likely be too incompetent to catch you if you don’t understand that someone is using your internet connection for nefarious purposes. I’d say that I don’t care and would continue to offer free wi-fi, but I’ve kept my own connection secure just as general principle since I’ve had it, so it doesn’t affect me much.
Oh, but one little bit takes the cake on this one:
Additionally scary: This legislation never received a committee vote or public hearing and was never made available for public review. Way to sneak one past the goalie, Congress!
I don’t know what’s more sad… The fact that Congress often passes bills like this (without review), or the fact that the original author didn’t quite realize that Congress often passes bills like this. After all, they want to make sure you don’t get any crazy hentai through your connection to the series of tubes.
Hat Tip: Doug
PS – Initial paragraph & title updated to reflect that the bill has only passed the House, not the Senate, and that you’re not legally required to report this stuff unless this makes it all the way through the process.