Dark side of Internet safety

Legislation seeks to catch online predators but it could be the death knell for Internet privacy.

Two bills going through Congress would unjustifiably force everyone who uses a router to record all connecting Internet protocol (IP) addresses âÄî unique numbers associated to a computer âÄî for at least two years to facilitate law enforcement in catching online predators. The legislation, proposed by Sen. John Cornyn , R-Texas, does not only force large Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T to abide, but also coffee shops, hotels and home networks that use a form of a router, wired or non-wired. The bill seeks to give the home user, business owner and large Internet company alike the responsibility of storing millions of personal computer numbers for law enforcement purposes. Republican lawmakers are quick to claim such a law would give law enforcement officers a better grip to protect the Internet from child pornography and predators. They even gave it the snazzy name to help plead their case: âÄúInternet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of TodayâÄôs Youth Act,âÄù or âÄúInternet Safety Act.âÄù But the potential law threatens usersâÄô privacy, and putting the burden on citizens to facilitate law enforcement (or else face penalty) is an asinine concept. Recording all IP addresses will give Internet service providers, or government officials with a subpoena, the power to see who was on the Internet, when they were online and the content. There are more viable alternatives to stopping online child predators. Instead of focusing on the location of predators, government should focus on the websites that enable worrisome behavior. Forcing websites to strict privacy policies while at the same time having them actively monitor and eliminate any potential predators would properly balance the safety and privacy of Internet users.