SOPA, PIPA, Seniors, and Online Privacy
Sometimes, I am still surprised at some of the things I find myself worrying about these days. I always figured when I got a little older I would have to figure out what type of healthcare coverage would work best for me (would Medicare be enough or would I need to find supplemental insurance?). I also figured I have to change up my diet and my exercise regimen at some point just to stay in better shape. I’ll admit it, though, I never figured so much of my time would be taken up with concerns over internet privacy.
Maintaining internet privacy has turned into a major concern for those of us who work, shop, communicate, or just get our news online these days. We’ve all seen the wide-ranging scams and online fraud that has occurred. This time around, however, the privacy issues being raised have taken on a much grander scale. A couple of weeks ago we witnessed internet sites, major companies, and people from all walks banding together to fight SOPA and PIPA:
“Tens of millions of people who make the internet what it is joined together to defend their freedoms. The network defended itself. Whatever you call it, we changed the politics of interfering with the internet forever--there's no going back.” (from SOPA Strike)
What these “Tens of Millions” were striking against were two bills being put before Congress—the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. While these measures were seen by many as a strike against online piracy and a way to ensure that companies, entertainers, and others could effectively protect their intellectual property rights, others saw the measures as draconian acts that infringed on the privacy of internet users and ultimately amounted to censorship.
SOPA and PIPA were effectively killed in Congress for the time being, but questions about internet piracy and privacy remain, and it’s certain that new bills (or variations of the old) will come to Capitol Hill in the future.
The Effects of SOPA on Internet Privacy
The outcry against censorship isn’t surprising, as most see the internet as a medium designed for the free dissemination of ideas and information. However, amidst all of the outcry, the effect the Bills could have on average internet users got a little lost. It’s important for all of us to know exactly how our privacy online could be altered. After all, many of us aren’t posting videos, songs, articles, or other information that may infringe on someone’s copyright. So what impact could a bill like SOPA or PIPA have on you?
“A little-noticed portion of the proposed law, which CNET highlighted in an article, goes further than Protect IP and could require Internet providers to monitor customers' traffic and block Web sites suspected of copyright infringement.” (from How SOPA Would Affect You</a>)
It is that “little noticed portion” that had so many people calling for the end of the bill. While questions regarding intellectual property, copyrights, and the power that would be given to companies and government organizations are at the heart of many of the protests, those arguments can seem esoteric at best to some of us. However, there’s nothing esoteric about having one’s actions monitored by an internet provider.
As the government revisits SOPA and PIPA and alternatives to the two bills, it’s necessary for seniors—and Americans of all ages—to stay informed. Changes in policy can cause significant changes to online privacy and security measures, and like it or not, those are things we have to spend time thinking about these days.