In yet the latest bad idea to come out of the Bush Administration, the Department of Justice is apparently encouraging ISPs to start thinking about retaining logs of customer activity online. News.com reports (Your ISP as Net Watchdog that DOJ officials met with ISPs and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on April 27 in Alexandria, Virginia. Officials said they would like to see ISPs cooperate voluntarily on retaining logs of customer activity data (such as email, web browsing, IM traffic, etc.), but also suggested a law may be required to create a standard period of data retention.
That’s the equivalent of asking the Post Office to keep a log of all mail sent in the US, just in case the government needs to do an investigation. Just because it is easier to log and store electronic logs, doesn’t mean we should. I’m all in favor of efforts to protect children from online predators, but requiring this data to be retained just in case offers a huge invitation to abuse by both the ISP and the government. If the police get a tip about a problem, let them go get a court order or otherwise work with an ISP to log data related to the address of the suspected individual.
Ignoring the privacy implications, consider the volume of data ISPs would be required to retain. I can’t even imagine the volume of data that someone like AOL would have to retain and the costs associated with doing so.
Department of Justice, try again.