Lawsuit Filed Over Utah’s Child Protection Email Address Registry

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More than a year ago I reported that the states of Utah and Michigan were going to institute an email address registry where people could register the email addresses to which children had access, and the states would then require that no email marketer send “bad stuff” to those email addresses. At that time I said that I thought that it was a really bad idea.

Then it all went quiet on the child protection email address registry front, for about a year. Which just happened to be the amount of time that the two states had between the time that the laws were first passed, and the time that they were required to get the email address registries up and running. Of course, in that time, everyone not associated with the registries had forgotten all about them, as it had been a year with no further discussion about the registries. So it came as a big surprise when suddenly it was announced that everyone had less than a month to comply with the registries, which were due to go live in July of this year.


Of course as states do, they missed their own deadlines, and the first operational registry, the Utah child protection email address registry went online in August.

While some of my own concerns about the security of the registry lists have been addressed by the technology behind them, apparently I’m not the only one who had thought that it was a bad idea.

This week it was announced that the Free Speech Coalition has sued the State of Utah over the registry, The Free Speech Coalition just happens to be a group of adult content publishers, a group who is of course most affected by the new child protection email address registries. But make no mistake, they aren’t the only group of emailers who have been upset by these laws. They also aren’t the only free speech advocates who have problems with the law.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been making rumblings all along about a lawsuit over the registries, and the Email Service Providers Coalition (ESPC) has more than rumbled, indicating that they will file an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the Free Speech Coalition.

Said my good friend Trevor Hughes, Executive Director of the ESPC, “While we don’t line up with the coalition on all of the issues that they cover and the industries that they represent, we do feel that the Utah registry is a bad response to spam and an even worse response to the concerns associated with protecting children.”

Of course, the reality is that the best method of protecting children on the Internet is, you know, being an involved and diligent parent. Take responsiblity for your children, people!

 

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4 thoughts on “Lawsuit Filed Over Utah’s Child Protection Email Address Registry

  1. I too am a parent, but the computer is NOT a babysitter. If your children need watching, have the mail come thru your acct first if you wish to prescreen. The US PostOffice lets any idiot send you mail, why should the internet be different. My children learn what is right and wrong and can make the decision to delete anything they don’t think is appropiate in a single click.If your child cannot make decisions like that, he should be supervised. You wouldn’t let him run down the road without supervision, would you? Repeat, not a babysitter. If you shelter your children too much, they will become victims they day they move out of your home.Utah is no exception!

  2. Just a note of clarification: I did not intend to imply that all members of the Free Speech Coalition were engaged in criminal activity. I DO believe that the Coalition protects rights that need protecting, but that in this case they are wrong and serving those who willfully trample the rights of others. Even if ALL of the Coalition were innocent, their actions serve to defend and enable those whose actions are morally and ethically indefensible.

  3. I am a parent, and I am very computer competent (a Unix System Administrator). I am concerned and involved, and that is nowhere near enough. Even if I could preview what is in my son’s mailbox, in the 60 seconds between my viewing and his opening his mail there is time for delivery of around 120 additional messages.

    On my personal email server I use blacklists, whitelists, a Bayes filter, and RBL blocking. Some nasty stuff STILL gets through, though not much. My wife and kids like AOL (which implies Windows: can you say “worst case”?) which tends to bypass ALL local protections.

    I filter my mail, as is my right. I will block inappropriate mail from my children’s mailboxes, and that is also my right. Where is it written that someone has a LEGAL RIGHT to send un-requested mail to my children or me? Utah and Michigan should not HAVE to pass local laws; this should be an issue of Federal (and perhaps international) law and technology. Blocked from sending outside their own domain (or perhaps at ALL) after only a short period of time without blocking valid mail, such laws will be enforceable. Right now we are only in the first round of legal attempts to protect society from the cyber criminals that belong to or depend upon the defense of the Free Speech Coalition and their like. The technological and legal problems are many, but ignoring the problem or letting the criminals win is NOT a solution. Doing nothing to suppress it only encourages criminal activity.

    Having to pass a law to implement common sense and responsible behavior is silly. It is also, given human nature, unavoidable. I find these laws a bit scary myself. I find requiring every individual with an email address, including 5 through 17 year olds, to be far worse.

  4. These laws are scary. Besides the obvious risk of encouraging parents to add their kids’ email addresses to lists of kids to “spam” with anything and everything, there is considerable risk, depending on how savvy law-enforcement is (a thought that inspires no confidence), of false accusations. First of all, it is a known fact that spammers often spoof the “from” address using addresses from their lists. There is no protection from this, “spam filters,” for example, might keep you from seeing spam but they sure don’t stop the spammers from sending it. They occasionally spoof my address and they occasionally spoof yours, bet on it. So what happens when porn spam with your spoofed email address goes to addresses on Utah’s or Michigan’s list? Are the prosecutors and district attornies smart enough (and do they care enough) not to engage you in frightening and expensive criminal accusations? I wish I didn’t worry so much.

    And here’s one you can protect yourself from, but if you don’t, you could be really nailed: spam re-mailer trojans. Current viruses are far less likely to format hard drives than they are to make computers function as “zombies” for nefarious purposes, most notably spam re-mailers. If that were to happen to your machine, you could be even now sending out porn spam to kids in Michigan and Utah with your IP address in the header if not your email address as well. The penalty for not keeping your virus protection up to date could now be a life sentence in prison, you evil child predator, you!

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