Sunday, December 11, 2005

Hidden Costs

As provisions of the PATRIOT Act reach the end of their shelf life this month, debate intensifies on both sides of the aisle. However there are also largely undebated and potentially disastrous new wiretap laws that will be very costly to campuses. Certainly, it is easier to rally support when the issue is one of privacy or civil liberties rather than one of unfunded federal mandates. But unfunded mandates can be just as damaging, particularly when so much has been done by Internet advocates to reduce the severity of a persistent digital divide in this country and as the cost of new technology for ubiquitous computing has dropped. Initiatives like the Stanford Interactive Workspaces Project, championed by Terry Winograd, could be scuttled in public higher education if hardwired requirements from the previous decade continue to be the norm.

Part of the silence has to do with the fact that this legislation (CALEA or Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) actually passed in 1994, and it is only now that higher education much comply with its infrastructure requirements. See why the American Library Association is concerned about the extension of CALEA to broadband networks. Here is an FAQ about CALEA, for those who want to learn more.



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