U.S. asks Internet firms to keep customer info
Attorney General, FBI asked companies such as Google, Verizon to retain customer records for two years; sources say terrorism cited as one motivation.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - During a meeting last week with some of the nation's leading Internet companies, the attorney general and the FBI director asked that they keep a variety of customer information and other data for two years, much longer than they do currently, the Justice Department confirmed Tuesday.

Currently, companies have varying policies regarding what information is kept and for how long.

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One thing the Justice Department is interested in being able to obtain is some type of subscriber information, such as the Internet address assigned to a person when logging onto a service provider, two sources familiar with the meeting told CNN.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said government and private industry officials are continuing to discuss the issues involved and some of the concerns raised by the companies at the meeting held Friday at the Justice Department.

The meeting, first reported by CNET News.com, included representatives from Verizon (Research), Comcast (Research), AOL (owned by Time Warner (Research), as is CNN), Microsoft (Research), Google (Research) and the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association, the sources told CNN. Because of the sensitivity of the discussions, companies involved in the discussions refused to comment on the meeting.

The original request for the record retention came as part of the Justice Department's efforts to fight child pornography. During a speech last month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he would be reaching out to the CEOs of Internet service providers about the records retention issue.

During the meeting, though, the FBI "made clear they wanted it for other reasons as well. ... Terrorism was mentioned," one of the sources said regarding potential uses for the information.

The industry is expected to strongly oppose any request to retain these types of records because of privacy concerns for their customers. "It is a slippery slope," one of the sources said of the government's interest in the information. "It becomes a fishing expedition."

The Internet companies have said there are other ways to get the information without them having to hand it over and believe requests like this are a burden to the industry, the sources said.

Another meeting of government and industry representatives is scheduled for Friday, according to an official of the Internet Service Provider Association.

--from CNN producers Kevin Bohn and Terry Frieden


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