[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: In this issue of the Digest, three
different reports from three sources on the new demands by Justice
Department and FBI on the new file retention demands made of ISPs
effective immediatly. This is report one, from Reuters. PAT]
By Jeremy Pelofsky and Michele Gershberg
The Federal Bureau of Investigation wants U.S. Internet providers to
retain Web address records for up to two years to aid investigations
into terrorism and pornography, a source familiar with the matter said
The request came during a May 26 meeting between U.S. Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller with top executives
at companies like Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s
"I think there is less of a willingness to passively go along with
this type of request than there might have been a year ago," said the
source, mentioning the recent uproar over a report that telephone
companies had provided call records to the National Security Agency.
"All the telcos got caught in the cross fire on this; now the ISPs
are feeling the heat also."
A Justice Department spokesman confirmed the meeting but was not
immediately available to comment on how long law enforcement officials
wanted the records retained.
"This meeting was an initial discussion for the Attorney General to
gather information and to solicit input from Internet service provider
executives on the issues associated with data retention," said
spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Gonzales
presented blurred images of child pornography and explained why he
thought retaining data was important to those investigations. At issue
was Internet protocol addresses.
When one industry executive questioned how long the government wanted
the records kept, Mueller said for two years and that the data would
also be used for anti-terrorism purposes, said the source.
The Justice Department has tangled before with Internet companies over
gaining access to records, subpoenaing search data from Google to
defend an online pornography law. The government cut the size of its
demand and Google acquiesced.
In that instance, Microsoft and Yahoo Inc. had turned over search
information after receiving assurances that no specific customer data
The IP address is key to unlocking what a person does online, what
site they visited what terms they searched, who they e-mailed and what
they downloaded, the source noted. Internet providers usually change
the address data within several days to several weeks.
Two big high-speed Internet service providers, Verizon Communications
and Comcast Corp., also attended the meeting last week, the source
The Justice Department spokesman said Internet companies would retain
the information and the government would only gain access to the
records through legal means like a subpoena. "Internet service
providers would retain the information," Roehrkasse said.
If Congress is going to be asked to pass legislation ordering Internet
providers to retain data they won't be asked for content of that data
but rather addresses e-mails were sent and sites they visited,
Recommendations are expected to be submitted to Gonzales in the next
several weeks, according to another source.
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," said
Microsoft senior security strategist Phil Reitinger.
Google spokesman Steve Langdon said proposals by the United States and
European Union on data retention "require careful review and must
balance the legitimate interests of individual users, law enforcement
agencies, and Internet companies."
The Justice Department's chief privacy officer on Thursday met with a
group of officials from rights groups including the Electronic Privacy
Information Center, the Center for American Progress, Cato Institute,
the Center for Democracy and Technology, Roehrkasse said.
The American Civil Liberties Union was also invited but did not
attend, he said. Other Justice Department officials were meeting with
victims rights groups and law enforcement groups to discuss the same
(Additional reporting Deborah Charles in Washington, Daisuke
Wakabayashi in Seattle and Eric Auchard in San Francisco)
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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