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Gov't: ISPs must save customer data

(June 24 2006) Written by: Joe Conley

Terrorism invoked in ISP snooping proposal:

"In a radical departure from earlier statements, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said that requiring Internet service providers to save records of their customers' online activities is necessary in the fight against terrorism...

If data retention becomes viewed primarily as an anti-terrorism measure, recent legal and political spats could complicate the Justice Department's efforts to make it standard practice.

Especially after recent reports that AT&T has opened its databases to the National Security Agency, Internet and telecommunications executives have become skittish about appearing to be cooperating too closely with the federal government's surveillance efforts.

In addition, the positive publicity that Google received during its legal dispute with the Justice Department over search terms has demonstrated to Internet companies the benefits of objecting to government requests on privacy grounds.

"A monumental data trove is a crazy thing from a privacy perspective," said one person familiar with Friday's discussions. "It's crazy that the U.S. government is going to retain more data than the Chinese government does."

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How long before the uses turn from fighting terrorism and child pornography to fighting online piracy and government dissent?

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