Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Enforcing Laws on the Internet

Last night, I was reading an article on the Ars Technica blog on my Kindle.  The article was entitled "Consumer groups skeptical about new Kerry-McCain privacy bill".  It started me thinking about enforcement on the Internet.  You can read it here:

Privacy of your information and who shares what with who is a good thing, though there are obvious issues with the bill as pointed out in the article.  But how much good will the bill actually do, even if the issues mentioned are taken care of?

The issue to think about here is that the Internet is international, not just in the United States.  Obviously US laws cannot be enforced in other countries.  So what happens if the website is run by a company in, say, the United Kingdom?  Or if the website is a US website but the advertising company whose content on the US website is over seas?  How about the situation with Facebook.  They have servers at a data center in California, but they also have a data center in Ireland.  Is the law enforcible purely because they are a US company, even if they were to put the information tracking and sharing part of their website exclusively in Ireland?

This has always been the issue with the Internet since the US part was connected to international networks.  This is the issue with SPAM laws and child porn laws.  This is the issue with music and video sharing.  Do you try to regulate what international content can be accessed within the country?  Do you try to get cooperation with other countries?  Do you completely cut off connection to other countries?  Do you go after the people viewing illegal content (not relevant to the privacy bill, but definitely to some of the others)?

Different countries have taken different tacts.  China blocks a lot of content, and monitors what passes through their borders.  Some Islamic countries have completely shut down private citizen access to other countries or allow no computer networking for citizens at all.  Some countries don't worry about international content at all.  And the US has tried different tacts at different points.

So how will the choose to deal with this issue with this new bill?  Or has anyone thought about or mentioned it to McCain or Kerry?

Bethany Kennedy
IT Professional

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