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Internet Providers to Save User Data Under Child-Porn Bill

July 28 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a measure today that would require Internet-service providers to save subscriber information to aid investigations of child pornography.

The bill, HR 1981, was approved on a 19-10 vote. It would obligate Internet providers to retain customers’ Internet Protocol addresses for a year. ISPs “routinely purge these records, sometimes just days after they are created,” Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the committee, said in a statement yesterday.

“Investigators need the assistance of ISPs to identify users and distributors of online child pornography,” said Smith, a Texas Republican who co-sponsored the measure with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat. “This bill ensures that the online footprints of predators are not erased,” he said in a statement after the vote.

The measure, called The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, has drawn opposition from digital-rights groups that say the data-retention requirement may threaten consumer privacy and increase the risk of data breaches.

The bill is a “stalking horse for a massive expansion of federal power,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said during debate before the committee’s vote.

Tracking ‘Potential’ Suspects

“This is China-style law enforcement, treating everyone as a potential suspect and requiring the collection of personal information just in case it might later be useful to the government,” Greg Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based organization that advocates for civil liberties, said in an interview.

The bill won early support from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and law enforcement groups including the National Sheriffs’ Association, according to Smith.

A similar measure was introduced in the Senate on June 30 by Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican. The bill, S. 1308, is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

The House Judiciary vote is an “important step” in the effort to fight child pornography, Michael Powell, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which represents ISPs including Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc., said in a statement.

The group will work with lawmakers to seek “further clarification that will produce reasonable retention practices that can aid law enforcement in stopping crimes against children,” Powell said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Engleman in Washington at eengleman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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