May 31, 2006 1:56 PM PDT

Industry, others object to data retention

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Google said it would continue in discussions with Justice Department officials about how to prevent child pornography and related crimes--and, like Microsoft, sounded a note of caution about sweeping data retention rules.

"We are aware of a number of proposals in the U.S. and Europe regarding data retention and data preservation requirements for Internet companies," Google said in a statement. "We believe these proposals deserve careful review and must consider the legitimate interests of individual users, law enforcement agencies and Internet companies."

A Yahoo representative said on Wednesday that the company was going to decline to comment until it had details about what the Justice Department wanted. AT&T spokesman Dave Pacholczyk said, "We will follow the law," and declined further comment.

"Cox remains committed to the privacy of our customers, maintains secured records for an appropriate amount of time--according to the applicable laws--and only provides access to customer information to law enforcement, to the courts or to other authorities when legally required to do so," said David Grabert, Cox Communications' director of media relations.

For his part, Gonzales said in a speech last month at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Internet providers must retain records to aid investigations of criminals "abusing kids and sending images of the abuse around the world through the Internet." More recently, the Justice Department has invoked terrorism as the justification for data retention.

Two proposals to mandate data retention have surfaced in the U.S. Congress. One, backed by Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, says that any Internet service that "enables users to access content" must permanently retain records that would permit police to identify each user. The records could only be discarded at least one year after the user's account was closed.

The other was drafted by aides to Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, a close ally of President Bush. Sensenbrenner said through a representative earlier this month, though, that his proposal is on hold because "our committee's agenda is tremendously overcrowded already."

"Preservation" versus "retention"
At the moment, Internet service providers typically discard any log file that's no longer required for business reasons such as network monitoring, fraud prevention or billing disputes. Companies do, however, alter that general rule when contacted by police performing an investigation--a practice called data preservation.

A 1996 federal law called the Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act regulates data preservation. It requires Internet providers to retain any "record" in their possession for 90 days "upon the request of a governmental entity."

Because Internet addresses remain a relatively scarce commodity, ISPs tend to allocate them to customers from a pool, based on if a computer is in use at the time. (Two standard techniques used are the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet.)

In addition, Internet providers are required by another federal law to report child pornography sightings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is in turn charged with forwarding such reports to the appropriate police agency.

When adopting its data retention rules, the European Parliament approved U.K.-backed requirements saying that communications providers in its 25 member countries--several of which had enacted their own data retention laws already--must retain customer data for a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years.

The Europe-wide requirement applies to a wide variety of "traffic" and "location" data, including the identities of the customers' correspondents; the date, time and duration of phone calls, voice over Internet Protocol calls or e-mail messages; and the location of the device used for the communications. But the "content" of the communications is not supposed to be retained. The rules are expected to take effect in 2008.

CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this report.

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7 comments

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Encryption...
And people wonder why some people use encryption software for Emails, IMs, Chat, etc... hmm.. go figure...
Posted by aSiriusTHoTH (176 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another good reason
to consider supporting different political parties or different people when voting. It's time for a change. This extremism has to stop before it gets bloody and even ugly.
Posted by GrandpaN1947 (187 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Our secret government calls the shots
At this point whoever gets into the White House, will do exactly as they're told, or end up nowhere fast.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
How is this not wire tapping?
Listening in on any conversation is wire tapping pure and simple, whether it's by reading a private email, reading the contents of an IM post or listening to words being spoken through a handset - which also converts the data to 1s and 0s and transmits it through the same sorts of technology used to wire the internet.

So hopefully if this ludicrous bill ever sees the light of day hopefully after the FBI's little Coup D'Etat ish retrieval of documents from government offices, hopefully Congress will refuse to advance any legislation that benefits the DoJ.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
its not wiretapping
It's not wiretapping b/c nobody is "tapping" anything. It's worse. The ISPs are going to simply hand it over... much worse.

This is such an invasion of privacy its not funny. It's like searching someone's home or property without a warrant.

The're just going to be watching and trying to pick out every bad thing they see without any reasonable belief or warrant.
Posted by hkwkejfkw (25 comments )
Link Flag
Once they require this....
I, for one, will go-offline with my money to protest this horribly invasive historic event!!
Posted by Dianne4anti-snooping (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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