Republicans Want To Require That ISP’s Record Your Internet Activity

Just when you thought Republicans were back in power in Washington DC to work on limiting government, along comes a proposal like this one to facilitate the government’s access to our private internet activity:

The House Republicans’ first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.

A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users’ activities for later review by police.

One focus will be on reviving a dormant proposal for data retention that would require companies to store Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for two years, CNET has learned.

Tomorrow’s data retention hearing is juxtaposed against the recent trend to protect Internet users’ privacy by storing less data. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission called for “limited retention” of user data on privacy grounds, and in the last 24 hours, both Mozilla and Google have announced do-not-track technology.

The privacy of browsing data is a tricky thing. After all, most of us access the internet through a service provided by a third party. Thus, by definition, our browsing data isn’t necessarily private to us. It’s private to us and the service we purchase internet access through. Right now companies protect that data because that’s what customers expect. Any ISP caught making that sort of data public would find itself losing customers quickly.

Really, outside of whatever privacy clauses may be included in your contract, your ISP really has no obligation to keep your browsing data private. But does that mean the government can simply order these ISP’s to keep your browsing data just in case they may want to access it at some point in the future?

I don’t see where the constitution grants the government that sort of authority, though I imagine they presume they have it based on some tortured interpretation of the commerce clause.

Frankly, if the government wants to access our internet browsing data, they should have to identify whose data specifically they want and get a warrant.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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