Bush Administration Proposes Mandatory ISP Record Keeping

Anne Winter
WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration proposed Wednesday that all Internet service providers be required to keep records of users uploading images and videos, information they say would be valuable to fight child pornography, terrorism and other crimes.

Justice Department officials met with industry representatives, including AOL and Comcast, in a private meeting to discuss why this sort of data retention is necessary, as well as find out the cost of recording user details for a span of two years.

An attendee of the meeting told CNET News.com that only universities and libraries would be exempt from the regulation.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales supports mandatory data retention, calling it a “national problem that requires federal legislation.” A bill introduced last month would give Gonzales full discretion as to what information must be stored and for how long.

Adult entertainment lawyer Lawrence Walters told XBIZ this regulation has “pros and cons” for the adult industry.

Keeping record of all online activity can aid adult webmasters in obscenity cases. Walters said companies would have documented proof of their content’s acceptability and popularity in different parts of the world, making it impossible for ISPs to prove otherwise in court.

However, Walters also said that the cost of storing so much data, as well as finding space for it, could put “a significant burden” on smaller businesses and potentially exclude them from hosting their own content. It would also negatively impact smaller hosts whose limited budgets would not allow for additional data retention.

Many larger web businesses already store user data for market research and to keep track of which services were used the most and what improvements should be made. Google keeps the information indefinitely, and AOL keeps it for 30 days.