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Gov't Wants ISPs' User Data

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    - Associated Press

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that Congress should
    require internet service providers to preserve customer records,
    asserting that prosecutors need them to fight child pornography.

    Testifying to a Senate panel, Gonzales acknowledged the concerns of
    some company executives who say legislation might be overly
    intrusive and encroach on customers' privacy rights. But he said
    the growing threat of child pornography over the internet was too
    great.

    "This is a problem that requires federal legislation," Gonzales told
    the Senate Banking Committee. "We need information. Information
    helps us makes cases."

    He called the government's lack of access to customer data the
    biggest obstacle to deterring child porn. "We have to find a way
    for internet service providers to retain information for a period of
    time so we can go back with a legal process to get them," he said.

    Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller have met with several
    internet service providers, including Time Warner's AOL, Comcast,
    Google, Microsoft and Verizon Communications.

    The law enforcement officials have indicated to the companies they
    must retain customer records, possibly for two years. The companies
    have discussed strengthening their retention periods -- which
    currently run the gamut from a few days to about a year -- to help
    avoid legislation.

    At Tuesday's hearing, Gonzales said he agreed with the sentiment of
    49 state attorneys general who in a June letter to Congress
    expressed support for a federal law that would require longer
    retention of customer records.

    "We respect civil liberties but we have to harmonize this so we can
    get more information," he said.

    The subject has prompted some alarm among internet service provider
    executives and civil liberties groups after the Justice Department
    took Google to court earlier this year to force it to turn over
    information on customer searches. Civil liberties groups also have
    sued Verizon and other telephone companies, alleging they are
    working with the government to provide information without search
    warrants on subscriber calling records.

    Justice Department officials have said that any proposal would not
    call for the content of communications to be preserved and would
    keep the information in the companies' hands. The data could be
    obtained by the government through a subpoena or other lawful
    process.

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