Sensenbrenner’s stance is emblematic of a sea change within the conservative party and in the White House, which initially expressed concerns over mandatory data logging.
The Bush administration began to change course after European Parliament approved similar requirements in December for Internet, telephone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers. Also, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez was vehement in his support for data retention in a speech he gave last week.
Sensenbrenner’s bill, expected to be announced within the week, aims to make it easier for law enforcement to conduct criminal investigations online. Companies that fail to comply with the proposed regulations could be fined or have executives face jail time.
The proposed bill from the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and similar rumblings within the government about data retention has worried ISPs. They argue that the cost of storing such data would be prohibitive and that current laws are sufficient to investigate and prosecute online criminals.
Data preservation is required of all ISPs, which maintain data logs of user activity when contacted by the police for investigative purposes.
Also to be included in the legislation are felony provisions for sites the government might have reason to believe facilitate access to child pornography. Bloggers, search engines and ISPs could be prosecuted for hyperlinks linking to child porn or posts in their discussion forums.
“The pedophiles seek to build larger collections of photographs and videos, as a license into their community,” Gonzales said. “As they become de-sensitized to the images they have, they seek more graphic, more heinous and more disturbing material. At some point, the pedophiles meet strong incentives not just to collect images, but also to produce new ones themselves. And today’s technology makes it easier and less costly for anyone to produce these images and distribute them widely.”
While Sensenbrenner’s proposed legislation is vague in its requirements, user names, physical addresses, IP addresses and subscriber’s phone numbers must be stored.
On the heels of the National Security Agency conducting widespread data-mining activities on American’s phone calling habits and the subsequent public outcry, Sensenbrenner and his right-wing cohorts are expected to face a tough time pushing this bill through, according to political experts.