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Republicans Revive Proposed Legislation to Force ISPs to Retain User Data


In order to protect the American people from “malicious cyber actors,” the Justice Department and an organization representing police chiefs from around the country insist Congress pass legislation requiring ISPs to retain customer usage data for up to two years.

The calls were made during a hearing on Tuesday held by a House subcommittee chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Republican congressman from Wisconsin.

Law enforcement considers current policies insufficient. ISPs are only required to save data at the specific request of law enforcement. Police argue the current policy hampers their investigations and efforts to pursue online predators and criminals.

“There is no doubt among public safety officials that the gaps between providers’ retention policies and law enforcement agencies’ needs, can be extremely harmful to the agencies’ investigations,” Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, told Sensenbrenner’s subcommittee.

In 2006, Sensenbrenner proposed similar legislation that would have imprisoned ISP executives for up to a year if they did not comply.

In addition, according to Declan McCullagh, the law would have created a federal felony targeting bloggers, search engines, email service providers and websites. The law was reportedly aimed at any site that authorities might have “reason to believe” facilitates access to child pornography through hyperlinks or a discussion forum or by other means.

Sensenbrenner’s legislation was ultimately shelved.

In 2008, the FBI and numerous members of Congress attempted to revive the dormant proposals.

“From the perspective of an investigator, having that backlog of records would be tremendously important if someone comes up on your screen now,” FBI Director Robert Mueller told a House of Representatives committee. “If those records are only kept 15 days or 30 days, you may lose the information you may need to bring that person to justice.”