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 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.

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  • robert108

    Your rant sounds like the lefties’ squealing during the Bush administration about “warrantless wiretapping” for monitoring microwave frequencies to see if terrorists were communicating with people in the US, and vice versa, port. You don’t give many details, and you fail to state the reasons for this request on the part of “Republicans”. Is it to have data available for criminal investigations? You create the impression that it will be generally used, but give no evidence of that. Try to keep your paranoia in check, OK?

    • Brenarlo

      I see robert108 has decided to stay in line. The establishment needs good people like you.

      Seriously, the government should not demand anything of these companies. It’s called coercion.

      • robert108

        I see you’re standing up for the criminals. You lie about me, as usual. Port gave insufficient information in his screed. More facts are needed, but port doesn’t like facts when he’s pushing his emotion-based ideology.

        • Jay W.

          At the risk of being accused of standing up for criminals, I posted about this as well. I go into a bit more detail on why I think this sort of privacy incursion is unnecessary. The capsule version: this sort of law paints everyone as a potential criminal, the approach being taken is to argue that more authority is needed without deciding (yet) how far that authority should go, and that federal law already provides both for the retention of the types of records under discussion (it just doesn’t provide a blanket policy; the records retained are for the target of a subpoena only) and a “mandatory reporter”-type status for ISPs that observe child pornography.

    • Neiman

      Even agreeing that they want to be able to investigate criminal activity, absent reasonable cause and a specific court order and a lawful warrant, I believe it would be an unconstitutional search. The problem is 108, once they are allowed to mandate data be kept, they can use it for reasons other than originally intended.

      Let us say they mandate two years of activity be maintained and then the Democrats get into power and because, let us say, they think uncivil GOP conversations are a threat to the safety of public officials, they then decide they can search 24 months of activity for every citizen to target conservatives only for law enforcement intimidation to stifle free speech.

      If it is only to track activity of genuine suspects under a court order wherein they had to prove reasonable cause, it seems like it might not be a bad idea; but once they have access to that data, the State can also use it for other less savory reasons and legislate all activity be kept period. No, I don’t think we should give them this access that we might inhibit their less than honorable intentions.

      • $8194357

        the camels nose under the tent..

        • Neiman

          I DO NOT trust the government! Give them under any justification, the tiniest room to undermine our rights, and they will drive a supertanker through the Bill of Rights.

          • $8194357

            And a big ship too…he..he..

        • borborygmi

          nose neck hump and tail working its way in.

    • suitepotato

      You present an attitude that the state loves, a paranoid view that if you want to maintain your privacy, then you’ve done something wrong.

      It doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide, it is still YOUR nothing, NOT the government’s.

      If you want to live in a police state, move to North Korea r108. The government has NO right to have anyone keep tabs on what we all do and when and how so they can have it turned over at will. NO FUCKING WAY.

    • M_breyfogle

      Actually, protecting personal privacy is a Republican thing historically. The right to privacy and keeping government out of your personal business is a bedrock of the party that used to be. We are getting a bit confused on where that party has gone.

  • The Whistler

    It should be illegal for the ISP’s to keep any data not needed for smooth functioning of the ‘net.

    More than a day seems very unreasonable.

    Exceptions would require a warrant.

    The real crooks probably know how to wash their stuff through proxy servers and stuff. This is more government overreach.

    • suitepotato

      I recommend getting Mozilla Firefox and the Vidalia Bundle. Then you can go through the chained proxies of the Tor onion router network. I also recommend using SSL whenever possible including email. Seriously people, do not make it easy for the political class to turn this nation into a police state. If you think that those you happen to support now won’t bend towards it, you’re just plain stupid. Acquisition and accumulation of power are all they care about. You are just something in their way to be run down. Don’t let them.

      • Jay W.

        suitepotato said:

        I recommend getting Mozilla Firefox and the Vidalia Bundle. Then you can go through the chained proxies of the Tor onion router network.

        Which brings up another reason why this sort of law is bad; it won’t solve the problem it pretends to address. There are ways to surf the web anonymously. There are ways to surf the web and make it look like you are someone else.

  • WOOF

    When it comes to terrorism you have NO rights to privacy.
    Not your house, your mail, your phone , your computer, your bank account,
    You can be hauled off in a sack, tortured , killed and never heard from again.

    Connected obtusely with this man and you’re on the list.
    No warrants are needed.

    • robert108

      “You can be hauled off in a sack, tortured , killed and never heard from again.”

      Another leftie drama queen heard from. Guilty conscience?

      • Guest

        shush 108. everyone knows you and cheney get your rocks off when anyone named Mohammed is bagged and tortured.

        after all, maybe they know something that will save lives or prevent atrocities.

        see how faulty that logic is?

        • robert108

          You follow one lie with another, as usual. We don’t torture, we interrogate. I know some muslims who would be glad to show you what torture really is, though.

  • Goon

    Wouldn’t this be a violation of constitution? Unreasonable searches and seizures?

    • Guest

      Unreasonable search and seizure of what?

      • Neiman

        Private communications!

    • I H8 GOPers

      Yes closet Democrat Goob, yes it is. Welcome to the light.

      This is what Republicans do to us and the constitution all the time. Have you ever heard a con say “if ya got nuttin ta hide, whatcha worried ’bout”? Republicans hate the Constitution as a whole. They claim their “common sense” is better than the Constitution of the United States of America!

      Liberals = Liberty!

      Join us, just don’t try to get our message out, you’ll probably screw it up.

  • Guest

    Typical nanny stater fare. No surprise here. When the Yankee cons were ditched for the bible thumpin bleeder base, one could tell this sort of unsavory shit was upstream, how far was the only mystery…

    • robert108

      Back off the pipe, dude; you’re babbling.

    • I H8 GOPers

      “Liberals = Liberty” is sofa king obvious!

      • Bat One

        Anyone who would believe that nonsense has the brains of a sofa cushion. More government spending, more taxes, more federal agencies, more Czars, more regulation, more interference with private sector commerce and the private lives of American citizens does not equal more liberty, and you are a pluperfect moron to suggest otherwise.

        • flamemeister

          “Liberals = Liberty” is sofa king obvious!”

          Monday, and we already have the probable winner of this week’s stupidest posting!

  • Steven Schneider

    So who is going to fund the systems needed to monitor the internet usage? Let me guess the ISP is supposed to take it out of their insane profits.

    • I H8 GOPers

      Yep, this is another attack on a non-republicore business by the republican machine. The only way to stop these attempts would be for the oil companies to buy the ISPs. Then the Republicans would leave them alone.

  • Jimmypop

    the gop LOVES its BIG government when they can monitor you and make you ‘behave’. its their morals, not your morals that you need to follow.

  • Kenny

    The biggest problem is that the government has already prosecuted companies for doing this without mandate.

    Now many companies are in the position of: if i keep it, I’ll be charged. If I don’t keep it, I’ll be charged.

  • 2hotel9

    Y’all do understand that all your computer activity is already recorded, right? It is gaining access to that record that government wants.

  • realitybasedbob

    gop will always be gop.
    Big government, nanny state, freedom hating, fear mongering, anti American crooks and liars.

    I do hope no one is surprised by this.

    Where are the jobs, gop?

    • 2hotel9

      Thats funny, booborygami, Republicans using laws and regulations createde by Democrats are bad? Really, whiny lying c*nt? Who was it that wrote the Patriot Act in the late ’90s? Oh, yea, Joe”Big F**king Deal”Biden, thats who. Who is pushing for direct government control of the internet and access thereof? Of, yea, the Democrat Party led by Barrack Hussein Obama.

      Now spew some more lies and sh*t, whiny lying c*nt. We love laughing at your mentally retarded suckpuppet a$$.

  • mikemc1970

    Progressives will be progressives regardless of the letter that comes after their names.

  • I H8 GOPers

    J. W.,

    At least Rob was honest enough to point out that it is the REPUBLICANS who have decided to continue their attack on privacy and the Constitution itself through this legislation.

    I don’t know what’s up with Cons. Port was honest about Rummy and the Republicans … Newt was honest about ethanol … most cons have dismissed Palin as a kook… Maybe the sky IS falling.

  • carolport

    Oh no! You mean the government is going to know how much yarn I order? What are they going to do? Tell my husband? Oh No! I don’t particularly want either one of them knowing!