The End of Financial Privacy… and You Get to Pay For It!
House bill would deputize financial intermediaries to spy on citizens, hoping to catch some in the act of illegal Internet gambling.

WASHINGTON – H.R. 21, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, seeks to discourage online gaming by going after the most common way of placing wagers in cyberspace – credit cards. But the method the bill proposes has both privacy groups and business groups crying foul.

"H.R. 21 requires banks and credit card companies to spy on their customers and report how their customers use their credit cards," said taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "The books you buy at Amazon, the sites you visit, the people you chat with would all be subject to government-mandated snooping. Even worse, to add insult to injury, consumers would be forced to pay for this loss of privacy – banks would have to hire people to rummage through your purchases, document suspicious activity, and report "questionable" activity to the government. Certainly, the banks would pass that cost along to their credit card customers."

Internet gambling is an especially tough nut to crack, because of the virtual nature of cyberspace. Unlike a Las Vegas casino, an Internet casino could be managed by someone living in the United States, but owned by a company in Bermuda, and run from servers in the Caribbean. The gamblers could be sitting at computers in Seattle, Baghdad, and Monaco, each with very different laws and social norms regarding gambling. This very nature of online gaming seems to have forced the world-be regulators into their draconian measures.

"In a perfect world, one might be able to discourage online gambling, if that were a worthy goal," Norquist continued. "But in the information age, attempts to do so, such as H.R. 21, violate the rights of online consumers and impose a hefty tax on us all. Yet even these measures will prove futile, as technology will always find a way around the regulators. It would be cheaper and safer if we found a way to live with a little online gaming."