Your ISP as Net watchdog
June 16, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT
The U.S. Department of Justice is quietly shopping around the explosive
idea of requiring Internet service providers to retain records of their
customers' online activities.
Data retention rules could permit police to obtain records of e-mail
chatter, Web browsing or chat-room activity months after Internet
providers ordinarily would have deleted the logs--that is, if logs were
ever kept in the first place. No U.S. law currently mandates that such
logs be kept.
In theory, at least, data retention could permit successful criminal and
terrorism prosecutions that otherwise would have failed because of
insufficient evidence. But privacy worries and questions about the
practicality of assembling massive databases of customer behavior have
caused a similar proposal to stall in Europe and could engender stiff
In Europe, the Council of Justice and Home Affairs ministers say logs
must be kept for between one and three years. One U.S. industry
representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Justice
Department is interested in at least a two-month requirement.
Justice Department officials endorsed the concept at a private meeting
with Internet service providers and the National Center for Missing and
Exploited Children, according to interviews with multiple people who
were present. The meeting took place on April 27 at the Holiday Inn
Select in Alexandria, Va.
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