Big Brother is Storing
During a recent hearing, the Department of Justice stated that it wants US ISPs to store more data that tracks customer activity. InformationWeek's Thomas Claburn reported that the DOJ needs the information to investigate Internet crimes, particularly those involving the victimization of children. Regardless of motivation, the effect has been to frustrate investigators. Weinstein cited a child pornography investigation in which child sexual abuse images were uploaded hundreds of times to various groups of offenders. When investigators sought information about those distributing and accessing the images within a six month period, 33 of 172 requests for data (19%) could not be answered because the ISPs had no data to provide. It's hard to find anyone who wouldn't bend or break the law to imprison pedophiles. Even a civil liberties group opposed to the government's desire to require greater data retention, the Center for Democracy & Technology, is at pains to state that it supports greater resources for prosecuting this "horrific crime." But the government's reliance on this emotionally charged issue to win backing for regulations requiring Internet businesses to keep better track of their customers clouds issues of cost and constitutionality that arise from impressment -- forcing the private sector into the service of law enforcement. As John B. Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, pointed out in his testimony, mandatory data retention would affect everyone, not just child pornographers, raising free speech and privacy issues, and would adversely burden businesses with regulations and expanded security obligations. This is definitely a very tricky issue. Time and time again we read about data breaches, theft and losses of old, stored information. ISPs, particularly small ones, will have their hands full not only with the costs of storing the contantly increasing customer information, they will have to safeguard all of it as well. Of course, would be an ideal solution for this particular data, but it will be interesting to see what regulators end up imposing on the ISPs.