With all the congressional hand-wringing over the tech industry's dealings in China, perhaps it's time lawmakers actually did something about it other than point the finger at Cisco Systems, Yahoo and Google.
At least, that's how Ed Black at the Computer & Communications Industry Association sees it. "As things stand now, it almost appears as if the U.S. government prefers to play the 'good cop' against China, leaving U.S. industry to wrestle with these difficult issues on its own," Black recently wrote.
Black's outfit wants the government to "support our industry by elevating freedom of the Internet to the top of [our] trade agenda, our human rights agenda and our diplomatic agenda."
Like that's going to happen any time soon under either Republican or Democratic control. Instead, Congress conjures up legislative sludge like the Global Online Freedom Act, which would prohibit U.S. companies from turning over personally identifiable data about users except for "legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes." Penalties could range up to $2 million per violation.
Perhaps CCIA and other tech trade groups should focus on the U.S. government's own questionable requests for data on citizens. It wasn't so long ago that the Department of Justice attempted to browbeat 1 million search records and Web addresses out of Google as part of the department's campaign against child pornography.
And then there's the infamous FISA provision that allowed the U.S. government to troll through millions of U.S. citizens' e-mails and phone calls without a subpoena.
Before bullying tech companies about their overseas practices, the feds should clean up their own house.