Internet records = Phone records?

Should ISPs be mandated to keep internet records of their customers? It is a question that I’ve debated with others for a while now without any real resolutions. Phone companies, I believe, are required to keep records of their customers for 3 years. It does make sense on occasion, if the information is required for a criminal investigation. The issues with doing something similar for internet records are three-fold, as I see it:

  1. The hard disk space/processing power required to keep such records are much more intensive than for a phone company. ISPs don’t want to have to invest in such technologies.
  2. People are used to a free (not as in beer) and somewhat anonymous internet. It will take an entire generation of users to come and go before such legislations will be accepted.
  3. The potential for misuse of a persons web-surfing habits is much higher than with a persons phone record. If keeping reocords is mandated, then there need to be strict safeguards against its misuse.

Internet crime is on the rise and as more of the worlds economy and infrastructure moves online, so will crime. While some form of record keeping is necessary and perhaps inevitable, such a legislation needs to be carefully considered before it is implemented. The New York Times has an article that reports that the US is asking companies to now do this.

The article is reproduced below with all credit going to the author and the NY Times.

U.S. Wants Companies to Keep Web Usage Records

The Justice Department is asking Internet companies to keep records on the Web-surfing activities of their customers to aid law enforcement, and may propose legislation to force them to do so.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a meeting in Washington last Friday where they offered a general proposal on record-keeping to a group of senior executives from Internet companies, said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department. The meeting included representatives from America Online, Microsoft, Google, Verizon and Comcast.

The attorney general has appointed a task force of department officials to explore the issue, and that group is holding another meeting with a broader group of Internet executives today, Mr. Roehrkasse said. The department also met yesterday with a group of privacy experts.

Continue reading