US Bill Would Require ISPs to Retain Much Personal Data

A short while ago the US House Judiciary Committee amended House bill H.R.1981 “Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011” so as to require ISPs in the United States to retain for 18 months a broad range of data about customers and their online activity. (It would seem that the version currently available on LOC’s Thomas does not yet reflect the changes.) To quote from the brief story by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic:

…the firm that sells you Internet access would be required to track all of your Internet activity and save it for 18 months, along with your name, the address where you live, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers, and IP addresses you’ve been assigned.
. . . .
Even more troubling is what the government would need to do in order to access this trove of private information: ask for it.
[emphasis in the original]

A similar bill has been introduced into the US Senate.


  1. David Collier-Brown

    A less intrusive bill was previously advanced here, C-51, and the government has promised to reintroduce it in a future omnibus bill.

    Both have the effect of making Internet service providers do things they arguably shouldn’t:
    1) Keep large amounts of sensitive personal information around, making them prime targets for hackers.
    2) Pay for a large and expensive snooping box: these start at $20,000 and go up from there. Snooping internet traffic in any volume requires dedicated hardware, in part because the existing routers were designed to be privacy-preserving, and partly because snooping is far harder than routing.
    3) Replace existing software that was consciously written to be privacy-preserving.
    3) Provide portions of the information without a warrant.

    The technical community is more than a little concerned about this,
    but at the same time we can tell that there is a real need for the police to be able to “wiretap the internet”.

    I now sit on a committee of the GTA Linux Users Group (GTALUG) tasked with tracking these concerns. I’d be happy to chat with anyone with an interest.