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House Judiciary Approves Child Porn Bill With ISP Data-Retention Mandates

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from www.broadcastingcable.com – The House Judiciary Committee Thursday voted 19 to 10 to approve Children From Internet Pornographers Act, a bipartisan but hotly debated bill that, among other things, requires Internet Service Providers to retain a year’s worth of IP addresses of their customers, and protects them from liability for retaining it and making it available to law enforcement.

The bill had Democratic supports and Republican opponents, but at the end of the debate, which was spread over two days as legislators broke for floor votes and debt ceiling meetings, the issue of combating child porn, which everyone opposed, trumped concerns over privacy rights, which all the legislators also said they supported.

One Democrat who was squarely opposed to the mandate, saying it would be an imposition on ISPs, particularly smaller ones, and a sweeping extension of government powers was Democrat Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

That was summed up in her amendment that closed out the markup and immediately preceded the vote. It was to rename the bill the “Keep Every American’s Digital Data for Submission to the Federal Government Without a Warrant Act.”

Bill co-sponsor Lamar Smith (R-Tex.-pictured) said the amendment trivialized the issue, while several Democrats including Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) jumped to her defense, saying she had brought an important issue to light — the data-retention mandate — and that the name change was simply calling the bill what it really was.

The bill would require ISPs to retain IP addresses and associated account information for one year and make it available to law enforcement under administrative subpoena rather than having to seek a court order.

Lofgren pointed out that groups as disparate as the ACLU and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform opposed the mandate. She argued that a targeted approach was better than a database of “every digital act by every American.”

Lofgren fired amendment after amendment at the bill to try to take some of the sting out of the retention mandates. One would require that ISPS to inform the courts law enforcement data requests similar to phone company requirements to report wiretapping requests. Another would have clarified that the bill did not give ISPs blanket immunity from liability for negligence that could result in the information being hacked. Another that would have made it clear it only applied to retaining data that was already being collected rather than opening the door to new data collections. They were defeated.

Smith said it was already clear in the bill that all that was being disclosed was personal information that was already collected, the names and IP addresses of customers, information they had to have to do business.

Smith promised to work on various issues before the bill goes to a House vote, including its impact on smaller ISPs.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association encouraged legislators to keep working on the bill while suggesting cable operators were already working with law enforcement and would continue to do so, a point Lofgren made in arguing that the mandates were overbroad and that a targeted approach was already working.

“Today’s action by the House Judiciary Committee in favorably reporting H.R. 1981, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, marks an important step in our collective efforts to fight against online child exploitation,” said NCTA President Michael Powell. “The cable industry has long worked with law enforcement and other organizations to assist in the investigation and prosecution of child pornography, and we are committed to continuing such efforts. We deeply appreciate the dedicated efforts of Chairman Smith and Rep. Wasserman Schultz to make improvements to this legislation. We look forward to working with them and other lawmakers toward further clarification that will produce reasonable retention practices that can aid law enforcement in stopping crimes against children.”

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