Republican politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.Of course, it's For The Children™.
"While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children," U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference on Thursday. "Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family level."Let's count how many separate, unique ways this is stupid. You can keep score at home!
1. Technical Complexity = Fail. Most people don't even know how to turn on the dang security on their wireless routers. You're going to turn maybe a hundred million people into felons. For The Children™, of course.
2. Data Gathering and Retention is Imperfect. For years and years, I've worked in a branch of security that's all about collecting and analyzing access logs. Guess what? There are big gaps in logs, all the time. And these are logs collected by trained (and usually certified) system administrators. Logs drop things, especially things that are passed across the network - like DHCP access logs sent from your wifi router to a computer. If even IT professionals can't do this reliably, mom and dad are going to end up as felons. For The Children™, of course.
3. Home wifi routers don't have the horsepower. The wifi router that Verizon brought for my FiOS is teetering on the edge of collapse, just getting me on the network. If you turn logging on, it will fall over and logs will fail sporadically. There will be suspicious gaps in the logs, and the Federales will expect a better explaination than "the dumb thing ran out of gas." The lousy, cheap access router will make me a felon. For The Children™, of course.
4. Logs don't identify access. "You keep using that word. I do not believe that it means what you think it means." What Senator Low-Watt-Bulb wants is an audit trail that shows the Ethernet address of each computer that connects to your wireless network, using DHCP. Ethernet addresses are supposed to be unique - each network interface has one that is different from every other ethernet address. Except that the Ethernet spec requires every computer to be able to change the address to anything that you want. Not that you'd want to change it to Sen. Low-Watt-Bulb's ethernet address - that might make him a felon. For The Children™, of course.
There's quite a good discussion of this over at Slashdot, including this comment:
And so to the title of this post. Save us,
The first rule of a police state is that EVERYONE is breaking the law.
As tedious as it is, Atlas Shrugged has something to teach us. Don't bother to read the book though, all you need to know is in the following quote [wordpress.com]:
"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against--then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted--and you create a nation of law-breakers--and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."
Sometimes I feel like a bot whose only real purpose is to paste this quote. But as it is a leading force in American society that people seem to have mostly forgotten, I believe it bears some heavy repetition.
- He's an idiot, and reinforcing the name "Stupid Party."
- This is the kind of mindless, Big Brother, statist claptrap that we expect from the Contemptable Party. He needs to knock it off.
- His plan will work just as well as President Obama's rainbow farting unicorns.
- His constituents would like him to pretty please knock it off. Kthanxbai.
UPDATE 22 February 2009 11:53: Madrocketscientist says it in fewer, but more pungent words. He expresses what is precisely the right attitude, especially his last sentence. And his first.