Justice Department Seeks Your Web Records

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Your Web activity may be scrutinized a little more closely in coming days, and records of it are going to stick around for longer than in the past. The U.S. Justice Department has asked giants AOL, Google, and Microsoft to hold onto accounts of their users’ online actions for up to two years. The information is intended to help with investigations into terrorism and child pornography.

“We have begun initial discussions with Internet service providers and others on this issue of data retention to help the department with bolstering its investigative efforts,” said Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman. Privacy advocates are raising their voices in opposition to the request, and Google and Microsoft have already gotten into legal tangles over the issue.

Roehrkasse admitted that the Justice Department has no legal authority to require companies to keep data on their customers. The entity would have to ask Congress for that ability, he said. Yet many feel it is important that the companies comply.

“The investigation and prosecution of child predators depends critically on the availability of evidence that is often in the hands of Internet service providers,” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said. “This evidence will be available for us to use only if the providers retain the records for a reasonable amount of time.”

The Justice Department has given endless assurances that the data will only be used for the purposes it has already outlined. For some, there are many more topics at stake. “We strongly support Attorney General Gonzales’ interest in assuring that the Internet is safe for everyone, especially children and families,” said Phil Reitinger, senior security strategist for Microsoft. “But data retention is a complicated issue with implications not only for efforts to combat child pornography but also for security, privacy, safety, and availability of low-cost or free Internet services.”

Google and Microsoft have already resisted, and won some concessions from the Justice Department. AOL and Yahoo! have supposedly complied. The issue may move to the courts, or before Congress, to become completely resolved.

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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.

Justice Department Seeks Your Web Records
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