In the U.S. Government’s continual quest to battle terrorism and child pornography, they have asked Internet companies such as Microsoft, Google and AOL to preserve records of customers’ Web activity. Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, states that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller made the request last week at a meeting with industry executives.
“We have begun initial discussions with Internet service providers and others on this issue of data retention to help the department with bolstering its investigative efforts,” said Roehrkasse. This and other recent moves by the government to collect data from Internet companies has prompted resistance from privacy advocates including a clash earlier this year with Google.
Roehrkasse goes on to say that the agency has asked Internet companies to retain records such as lists of e-mails sent and received or information on Web searches. Authorities wouldn’t ask the companies to keep the content of e-mails and would use standard legal channels, such as seeking a subpoena, before obtaining information.
In earlier requests of data from the Department of Justice, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo had complied while Google resisted. Finally Google was ordered by a federal judge to give over some of the data the DOJ had requested. Phil Reitinger, a senior security strategist for Microsoft says, “We strongly support Attorney General Gonzales’ interest in assuring that the Internet is safe for everyone, especially children and families. But 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.”