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DOJ wants ISP help in tracking website visits, internet searches, e-mail traffic

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller plan to resume talks on Friday with major internet service providers on retaining customer data on internet activities that would allow them to better combat child pornography and terrorism. An initial meeting [JURIST report] last Friday included American Online, Microsoft, Google, Verizon and Comcast; this week's meeting will include a broader group of representatives from internet companies. The Justice Department [official website] wants to be able to view records that could help them identify which internet users visited specified websites and potentially which users conducted specified searches, as well as determine who exchanged e-mails with whom without disclosing the content of the e-mails.

The issue of government access to detailed internet records is an extremely sensitive one. Earlier this year the Justice Department fought a legal battle [JURIST report] with Google, Inc. [corporate backgrounder] when Google refused to turn over index data or search terms [JURIST report] in response to a Justice Department subpoena [PDF text]. A federal judge ultimately ordered Google [JURIST report] to turn over a limited number of indexed addresses. Justice Department officials have also suggested that retained data could be used to control intellectual property theft and fraud. The New York Times have more.

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