New Bill Could Force ISPs Keep User Data

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A new user data-logging bill that is being introduced is heating up the Net Neutrality deabte. Rep. Lamar Smith of The House Judiciary Committee, is preparing a bill which would require internet service providers to retain information about their users to aid in criminal investigations.

The bill is designed to help increase criminal charges and penalties against acts such as child pornography. The current draft of the act would require logging and storage of "temporarily assigned network addresses" stored for 18 months. However, the bill allows wireless providers to be exempt and they would not be required to store user data.

While some Net Neutrality advocates argue against the storing of usage logs, stating that it infringes on constitutional rights and freedoms, most understand that the monitoring and storing of data is a necessary infringement of personal rights in order to better prosecute criminal offereders.

The proposed bill is gathering opposition from the U.S. Justice Department who is concerned about drawing strong blowback from cable and DSL providers. Some amongst the Democratic congressional staff have voiced concerns and have chosen not to support the bill due to perceived privacy infringements.

Contention arises due to the fact that mobile Wi-Fi hotspots such as coffee shops and other places offering free Wi-Fi access will not be required to store the data, but more traditional wired locations such as universities, business and schools will be mandated to store usage log files.

Additional issues arise in businesses that offer a mix of services. Would these businesses (Internet Cafes) be required to keep logs files for both wired and wireless traffic, or just wired?

Obviously the exemption of wireless logging presents a huge loop hole and would be problematic for trying to prosecute in criminal cases. The deputy attorney general, Jason Weinstein recognized this himself, and emphasised the nessesity for the legislation in be inclusive of wireless services because "when this information is not stored, it may, be impossible for law enforcement to collect essential evidence."

Most ISPs do not retain log files for long due to a lack resources required to log, store, and maintain usage stats.

The 1996 Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act, requires providers to maintain any records they have for 90 days once requested by a government agency. There is however no guarantee that the criminal activity would be discovered before the data had been purged from ISP records.

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