Opponents claim child protection registry could put kids at risk

Politics
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State lawmakers aiming to protect Indiana children are working on legislation designed to keep telemarketers from contacting your kids through email, but some people worry the proposed bill won’t make children safer, and could instead be putting them at risk.

Senate Bill 344 would create a child protection registry, similar to a ‘do-not-call list,’ designed to keep telemarketers from emailing your children. But some worry, there could be a much more dangerous side effect.

“The Internet is a very scary thing,” said parent Martie Hoofer. “There’s so many good things there that you don’t want to shut it off, but it is very scary.”

“I had a couple incidents where my children received pornographic emails,” said Indiana Chamber vice president David Wulf, who is leading the fight against SB 344. “I think there’s certainly good intentions with this bill, we’re all concerned for our children’s safety.”

But he fears there could be an unintended consequence.

Here’s how it works:

Telemarketers who already have your email address and millions more would have to submit a list to the state so that e-mail addresses belonging to children or families could then be taken off their contact list. But Wulf fears pornographers and pedophiles could pose as vendors, and compare their original list with the ‘scrubbed’ list to determine which specific email addresses belonged to children.

“You send a list with Joe, Sally and Sue on it, and the Secretary of State says you can market to Joe and Sally, what does that tell you about Sue?” Wulf asked. “You’d know Sue’s a child, and illicit businesses around the world that are seeking that kind of information want to sell that on the black market.”

Still, the bill’s author said those fears were far-fetched.

“I was a deputy prosecutor for 14 years, and this simply is not how people go about finding kids for illicit purposes,” said state Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. “Child predators use social media, they don’t have an organized group that hacks emails.”

“That’s a double sided issue,” said Hoofer. “I can see wanting my kids not to get those emails, but I see the other side as well.”

“Just as our state legislature is exploring whether there are some unintended consequences for what seems to be a well-meaning strategy, I think a parent would want to pursue that same kind of thing, and ask does it really make my child safer?” asked Sharon Pierce, president of The Villages, a local family services organization. “Or does it put them in a category that might put them at risk?”

The Indiana Chamber said it’s also looking at this from a business perspective. The group feels the fines in the bill are too steep for businesses that might violate the law. If, for instance, a car company were to accidentally send an ad to a child, it could be a $25,000 fine.

The bill already passed the Senate, but it has yet to be heard in the House, with the end of the session drawing near.

Michigan and Utah already have a child protection registry in place, and Sen. Head told Fox59 there haven`t been any major problems in either state since their registries were enacted several years ago.

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