Rep. Lamar Smith introduced The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 to help law enforcement track and arrest child pornographers. The title sounds good--we all want to protect children, but some critics have called the bill “un-American” and others have labeled it “the biggest threat to civil liberties now under consideration in the United States.” Why the strong reaction to the bill? Well because rather than target suspected offenders or those with a previous record of sexual abuse, the bill would give Internet providers the right to monitor the accounts of anyone using the Internet. Yes, anyone. The companies would be required to track your Internet activity, store private information about you including your name, your address, your bank account and credit card numbers and your IP address for 12 months. Rep. Smith says that if the bill doesn’t pass it “would keep our law enforcement officials in the dark ages.” The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill by a 19 – 10 vote. Does this bill go too far and violate our right to privacy, or is it a necessary tool to catch some of the worst among us? How much privacy would you, or should, you be willing to give up to catch a child pornographer?
Gregory T. Nojeim, Senior Counsel and Director, Project on Freedom, Security & Technology, Center for Democracy & Technology
Douglas Mac Farlane, special agent with the Crimes Against Children for the FBI