Proposed Bill Requires ISPs 2 Year Data Retention

Dennis Faas's picture

Republican politicians have reportedly called for a sweeping new federal law requiring all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and operators of millions of WiFi access points -- including hotels, local coffee shops, and home users -- to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.

The legislation would impose unprecedented data retention requirements on a broad swath of Internet access providers.

Two bills (S. 436 in the Senate and H.R. 1076 in the House of Representatives) have been introduced so far. Each bill is titled "Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act," or the Internet Safety Act. (Source:

Each bill says a provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user.

The Internet Safety Act would apply not just to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and all other Internet Service Providers, but also to the tens of millions of homes with WiFi access points or wired routers using the standard method of dynamically assigning temporary addresses. (DHCP or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol.) Everyone would have to keep such information if the bill became law.

Millions of WiFi Users Affected

The legal definition of electronic communication service is "any service which provides to users thereof the ability to send or receive wire or electronic communications," but the U.S. Justice Department has taken the position that any service that provides others with means of communicating electronically qualifies.

That means that not only public WiFi access points be included. The law would apply to individuals, small businesses, large corporations, libraries, schools, universities, government agencies and Voice over IP (VoIP) services, too.

If the Internet Safety Act became law, all those entities would have to keep logs for at least two years. In their current forms, the bills lack information about fines and the enforcement of the retention of data.

Privacy advocates and civil rights watchdogs say the measure threatens people's privacy and creates potential security risks including identity theft and other fraud. (Source:

The Internet Safety Act also adds criminal penalties to other child pornography-related offenses, increases penalties for sexual exploitation of minors, and gives the FBI an extra $30 million for the innocent images National Initiative.

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