Justice: Save Web Data For Two Years

    June 2, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Companies like Google, Comcast, Verizon, and Microsoft have recently met with the Department of Justice and the FBI on the suggestions that those Internet companies retain user web activities for as long as two years to help fight terrorism and child pornography.

Justice: Save Web Data For Two Years
DOJ Wants Info Saved For 2 Years

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller have asked executives from throughout the Internet industry to hang on to data for two years. USA Today reported that the data retained would be exchanges of emails, though not the content of those messages, and web searches.

The government sees this information as essential to the combating of terrorism and child pornography. Previous attempts by Justice to compel Google to part with vast sections of its index prompted a lawsuit by Justice that Google managed to defeat in court.

That previous battle was over child pornography. Justice claimed the data would be needed to bolster its arguments in a Pennsylvania court that the Child Online Protection Act is constitutional.

Now Justice has invoked terrorism as an additional justification for its request. The industry looks ready to cooperate, so long as privacy issues are addressed. From the article:

“The issue for us is not whether we retain data, but we want to see it done right,” says Dave McClure, president of the U.S. Internet Industry Association, which represents 150 companies, primarily Internet service providers. “Our concerns are who pays for it, what data is retained, and if it is retained legally without violating federal laws and subscriber agreements.”

“We strongly support Gonzales’ interest in assuring that the Internet is safe for everyone,” Phil Reitinger, Microsoft’s senior security strategist, said in a statement Wednesday that acknowledged the company’s participation in the meeting at Justice. “But data retention is a complicated issue.”

Complications come from keeping a growing volume of data retained for a period that exceeds the 30 to 90 days most Internet service providers retain that data. Companies like Google and Microsoft keep much more data on hand and are likely the true targets of the Justice request.

“Child pornography is disgusting and illegal,” Steve Langdon, a spokesman for Google, said in a Mercury News report about the request. But he said any proposals related to users’ data “require careful review and must balance the legitimate interests of individual users, law enforcement agencies and Internet companies.”

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.