Help Us Protect Your Privacy Online

Written by Dane Jasper

August 1, 2011 | 3 min read

Internet spying

Credit: Int'l Herald Tribune

A panel of the U.S. House of Representatives has just moved forward legislation that would force ISPs to retain logs about your online activities for one full year. I urge you to write to your representatives in hopes of preserving your right to privacy online.

Today we retain most IP allocation logs for just two weeks; we don’t need them beyond that period, so they are deleted. Storing logs longer presents an attractive nuisance, and would potentially make our customers the target of invasions of privacy. Any lawyer could simply file a Doe lawsuit, draft up a subpoena and request a customer’s identity. It’s far too easy.

Do the wheels of justice – or investigation – move too slowly, and should data be retained for a long time to allow for legitimate investigation? No, there are already tools in place that law enforcement can easily use to ask ISPs to preserve log information of real online criminals. The 1996 Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act allows law enforcement to require an ISP to keep data for 90 days upon law enforcement request, giving time for a legitimate search warrant to be reviewed by a judge and issued. But, keeping data on every online user for a full year presents far too much potential for abuse.

CNET writes that “It represents ‘a data bank of every digital act by every American’ that would ‘let us find out where every single American visited Web sites,’ said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who led Democratic opposition to the bill.” (Note that does not track your actual use of the Internet, so there are no logs of browsing history. Our concern is about IP allocation logs. -DJ)

Lofgren said the data retention requirements are easily avoided because they only apply to ‘commercial’ providers. Criminals would simply go to libraries or Starbucks coffeehouses and use the Web anonymously, she said, while law-abiding Americans would have their activities recorded.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sums it up well, and provides a tool to allow you to speak out against this legislation: “The US House of Representatives is currently considering H.R. 1981, a bill that would order all online service providers to keep new logs about our online activities, logs to help the government identify the web sites we visit and the content we post online. This sweeping new ‘mandatory data retention’ proposal treats every Internet user like a potential criminal and represents a clear and present danger to the online free speech and privacy rights of millions of innocent Americans.”

I urge you to contact your Representative today and ask them to oppose this dangerous bill.