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SALT LAKE CITY — A computer analyst who happens across child pornography and doesn't tell police could be charged with a crime under a bill a Utah House committee passed Wednesday.
HB155 would require computer technicians who find sexually explicit images of children in the course of their job to report it to law enforcement or the federal cyber tip line for child pornography.
Bill sponsor Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, said it does not require information technology professionals to search computer files for child pornography nor would they have to report an image of a baby in bathtub, for example.
Hall likens the measure to the state's law mandating the reporting of child abuse by anyone who becomes aware of it. He noted, however, that his bill applies only to computer technicians.
A technician who fails to report could be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which carries up to a six-month jail sentence and $1,000 fine. The law would provide immunity for a person who reports in good faith.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee passed the bill to the House floor on a 9-1 vote.
Hall said 12 states have such a law, including one where it's a felony to not report.
Some residents and lawmakers wondered if the bill would have unintended consequences for IT professionals.
"IT issues are not simple. This bill makes it sound like it's simple, cut and dried. It's not that simple," said Lehi resident Elaine Augustine, a mother of eight children ages 18 to 1 whose husband works in the computer field.
The law could force IT professionals to report on their own children "instead of dealing with it in the privacy and comfort of our own home," she said.
Dan Deuel, who said he's worked 20 years in the IT industry, said the measure goes too far in criminalizing not reporting.
Lawmakers expressed concerns about the possibility of false accusations if, for example, someone's computer were hacked with illicit images of children.
Rep. Ed Redd, R-Logan, said he could see people being blackmailed and their reputations sabotaged. "Anyone of us in this room could be accused of this," he said.