POSTED: 12:17 p.m. HST, Jan 26, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 5:14 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2012
State lawmakers decided Thursday to leave online piracy legislation to Congress after hearing vehement opposition to a bill that called for keeping records of Hawaii users' Internet activity.
The proposal was introduced to assist authorities in combatting online crimes such as identity theft. However, aside from law enforcement officials the measure received support from only one person at a public hearing.
The overwhelming amount of testimony opposing House Bill 2288 said the measure would harm business interests, violate privacy and undermine efforts to expand technology use around the state.
Underscoring these concerns was Gordon Bruce, Honolulu's information technology director, who said the bill would force the city to shut down the free Wi-Fi service it provides on Oahu through voluntary public-private partnerships.
With no single company in charge of the system, Bruce said, "the requirement of capturing and storing this data will make it cost-prohibitive to those who volunteer to participate in this very successful program."
Yuka Nagashima, executive director and CEO of the High Technology Development Corporation, said the proposal would also undermine Gov. Neil Abercrombie's broadband initiative, which aims at providing affordable high-speed Internet across the state.
Nagashima mentioned the heavily-debated online piracy measures being considered in Washington, known as the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, saying, "Compared to this bill, those bills are mild."
Several major Internet companies, including Google and Twitter, have criticized SOPA and PIPA as overreaching. Several sites, including Wikipedia and Reddit, staged temporary shut downs in protest.
The Hawaii proposal would have required Internet service providers with customers in the state to record all subscriber data, including the Internet Protocol addresses, domain or host names for all websites they visit.
"This new mandate is a direct assault on the privacy of Internet users," stated Laurie Temple, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, in written testimony.
The bill could provide direct links between users and their online activities. "Access to this information can allow anyone to determine the websites users visit and, consequently, what their interests are, where they bank, and what online accounts they have," Temple added.
But Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter, who heads the white collar crime division, told lawmakers that the proposal is consistent with federal law and wouldn't change the high legal threshold for obtaining Internet records.
"The bill will not give the government free access to the information that has been retained," Van Marter said.
According to Van Marter, many Internet service providers already keep user records for practical reasons, such as settling customer disputes or statistical analysis. Prosecutors are able to obtain these IP address logs in their investigations about 75 percent of the time, he estimated.
Angus McKelvey, chairman of the House Committee on Economic Revitalization and Business, said the state should hold off on its own law while Congress works on online piracy issues at the federal level.
Instead the Olowalu-Kapalua Democrat said the committee would draft a resolution urging Internet service providers to work with the prosecutor's office on reasonable data retention requirements.