The Feb. 13 Business article "Bill Would Make ISPs Keep Data on Users" reported on a "data retention" provision included in legislation I introduced to combat Internet child pornography.
I was alarmed to learn that civil liberties groups and industry representatives claim that I advocate unfettered monitoring or tracking of Internet users by the federal government. Even more alarming is that these critics either do not know or do not care that the Internet is a virtual playground for sexual predators who operate with relative anonymity.
One in five American children ages 10 to 17 will receive a sexual solicitation online. It is estimated that 50,000 child predators are online at any given moment searching for potential victims. For law enforcement officials to shut down an illegal child pornography site, they have to subpoena the Internet service provider's records to identify the operator and users of the site. Unfortunately, many ISPs keep these records for as little as 24 to 72 hours, and, as a result, law enforcement officials are often unable to apprehend these pedophiles.
Claims by industry and civil liberties groups that the federal government would "track" users of the Internet are disingenuous. A number of ISPs currently retain subscriber data, some for up to 90 days, and a handful of these work closely with law enforcement to identify child pornographers. I applaud their efforts and only wish that all ISPs would implement similar retention policies.
Given the choice, I believe it's worth requiring ISPs to retain the names and addresses of their customers for longer periods if it means protecting our children from molesters and pornographers.