The massive stimulus bill being wrangled through Congress has been making headlines for days. Unfortunately, many have sought to make additions to the bill that raise serious concerns for privacy and free speech online. Because the final text has not yet been made public, we can't be certain what was and wasn't included. But there are two elements in particular we're keeping an eye on:
First: Public Knowledge led the charge against a Hollywood-backed provision that sought to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to inspect internet communications for copyright violations. This filtering technology is deeply problematic on many levels, and would be ripe for abuse by the content industry. EFF outlined these problems in detail in a 2007 letter to the European Parliament [PDF].
And, second: CNET Technology Policy Editor Declan McCullagh reported on provisions in the Senate-confirmed bill designed to drive a sweeping, nationwide transition to electronic health records. Already, EFF and others are concerned about the potential commercial use of patient data, weak or non-existent opt-out mechanisms, and a possible lack of privacy and security expertise in the bureaucracy established by the bill. This transition should be carefully debated and considered, not shoehorned into the stimulus package.