Recently I read an article by Declan McCullagh, "Justice Department takes aim at image-sharing sites,"* that stated that the US Department of Justice, including the Assistant Attorney General were trying to convince industry representatives that data retention would be valuable in investigating terrorism, child pornography, and other crimes. The idea is that companies would be told to retain at least two years of data and would require companies to keep logs of which customers are assigned to what specific internet address.
The Bush administration has tried prior initiatives to try and monitor Internet data usage and users. Since 2001, the administration created the Patriot Act and followed-up with additional proposals that, if enacted, would allow the FBI eavesdropping powers without a court order for up to 48hrs. Also, the administration wanted internet service providers to install backdoors for surveillance and has called for router redesigns that would facilitate surveillance.
Immediate comments to the Bush's administrations latest privacy push is mixed. Collaboration users worry that all their hosted content would now be more easily scrutinized by the government. Others suggest people stop using Web 2.0 applications, while others support the legislation since they have nothing to hide.
Currently several internet hosted providers already make a practice to store personal information forever and work with the government when requested. Google stores search terms indefinitely, AOL stores it for 30 days, and other Web 2.0 collaborative companies store their data indefinitely.
For those that have not implemented storage and identity policies, overhead costs may increase and end-user agreements may need to be amended to notify users that their information will be retained and made available to the government without consent. Also, future product requirements may be requested by the government to facilitate government investigations. Where the line will be drawn regarding government requirements has not been defined, and justice officials are not commenting.
For users who do not want to allow government this liberty, an on-site hosted solution may prove a better solution, or other options such as peer-to-peer solutions may be considered.
Where Web 2.0 makes it easier for the user to collaborate, it also makes it easier for government spying. I will keep you posted on additional findings and what impact such legislation can have.
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