Attorney General Wants Congress to Enforce Search Data Retention


Web surfing privacy and the DOJ are back in the headlines this morning after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Congress that legislation is needed to force ISPs and other Internet businesses to retain customer data -- perhaps for as long as two years.


Gonzales told legislators that not having access to such information is the main obstacle to fighting the growing problem of child pornography on the Internet, according to a report at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.


That, of course, is the same refrain cited by the DOJ earlier this year when it fought it out with Google and other ISPs over requests for customer search data. Google resisted, was hit with a subpoena, and ultimately was ordered by the courts to surrender some of the data the DOJ wanted.


After the Google flack, the DOJ began a public campaign in support of requirements to force ISPs and search engines to keep customer data for up to that two-year window. The government has always contended that it would still need to issue subpoenas to access the data -- it just wants to make sure the data's around if it needs it.


We'd note that several lawmakers have backed the DOJ's push, although in June an article in The Mercury News reported that no Silicon Valley lawmakers could remember a case in which not having such access actually crippled prosecutorial efforts.


Even back in the spring, some legal experts were expressing hope that Congress would take steps to protect Web surfers' privacy.


Gonzales is now asking Congress to make government searches a little easier, or at least more readily available.

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