It was only three years ago that the media and airwaves were screaming about the loss of privacy and individual rights that would result from the Patriot Act. Now, we not only have the Patriot Act, but we have endlessly increased government spying, all under the name of protecting us. When will it be enough I wonder.
As a new Senate privacy panel considers the data collected by iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys, the Department of Justice is reminding lawmakers that it needs Internet providers to store more data about their users to help with federal investigations.
Current law doesn’t require those Internet service providers to “retain any data for any particular length of time,” although some already do, said Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general at the DOJ’s Criminal Division. And many wireless companies — which must collect some data — also “do not retain records that would enable law enforcement to identify a suspect’s smartphone based on the IP address collected by websites the suspect visited,” he noted in prepared testimony.
That’s why Weinstein urged the Senate Judiciary’s Privacy, Technology and the Law subcommittee on Tuesday to consider data-retention legislation as it weighs new privacy efforts in the digital age. The top DOJ official said such a congressional fix would boost the agency’s ability to investigate privacy breaches, prosecute other digital crimes and ferret out abuses in the offline world.
“Those records are an absolutely necessary link in the investigative chain,” Weinstein told the panel.
Data retention has proven to be a particularly divisive issue in the privacy community. Some top tech stakeholders believe it would allow companies and law enforcement agencies too much access to consumers’ personal information, such as the websites they visit. The resulting caches of information could further be subject to data breach, many argue.
But data-retention rules are particularly appealing to DOJ, which argued at a hearing earlier this year that such legislation would assist greatly with cyberstalking and other tough law enforcement investigations. Weinstein stressed Tuesday the department seeks a law that would require providers to keep records for a “reasonable period of time,” and seeks a “balance” between the needs of law enforcement, private industry and consumers. Read here: the DOJ wants IPS’s to keep tabs