The Justice Department is asking leading Internet companies to keep histories of Web user activities for up to two years to assist in criminal investigations of child pornography and terrorism, reports USA Today. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller made their request to executives from Google, Microsoft, AOL, Comcast, Verizon, and others Friday in a private meeting. The department has scheduled more discussions as early as tomorrow. Last week’s meeting was first reported by CNET. Previously, Justice had invoked the need for data retention only on child pornography. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Internet traffic has become increasingly critical to terrorism investigations, too.
Justice is not asking companies to keep the content of e-mails; it wants records such as lists of e-mail traffic and Web searches. The government must seek proper legal authority, such as a subpoena, before obtaining the records. Law enforcement officials have seen investigations derailed “time and time again” because of a lack of data, a Justice spokesman said. Lee Tien of the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, said “the request raises some really, really major privacy problems. The Justice Department is “asking ISPs (Internet service providers) to really become an arm of the government.”