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Free Market Coalition Opposes Digital Dragnet

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Free Market Coalition Opposes Digital Dragnet

Data Retention Mandate Threatens Small Businesses, Cybersecurity, and Privacy

Washington, D.C., July 27, 2011 — This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary will mark up H.R. 1981, a bill that would impose a broad data retention mandate on all U.S. commercial Internet service providers.

Today, a coalition of free market public interest groups submitted a letter (PDF) to the committee voicing serious concerns regarding H.R. 1981. The coalition, which includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute, TechFreedom, and Americans for Tax Reform’s DigitalLiberty.net, warned that a broad data retention mandate would burden small businesses, hinder innovation, undermine cybersecurity, endanger free speech, harm Americans’ privacy and set a dangerous international precedent—all without appreciably advancing law enforcement objectives or benefiting criminal investigations.

The coalition letter explains that:

“The mandate would impact an extraordinarily broad array of businesses of all sizes that offer Internet service to the public for a fee. Americans access the Internet not only at home but also at coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, offices, and at numerous other venues. Requiring all firms that sell Internet access to log temporary network address data would impose substantial costs. As with all burdensome regulations on the private sector, consumers themselves ultimately bear most of the costs incurred by companies in complying with the data retention mandate.”

“H.R. 1981 follows in the footsteps of repressive governments such as China, which recently enacted a similar retention mandate covering wireless Internet providers to facilitate its suppression of dissidents. America should take the moral high ground: citizens are innocent until proven guilty. A blanket mandate requiring providers to retain network address information pertaining to all citizens—the vast majority of whom have never been charged with a criminal offense—amounts to a ‘digital dragnet’ of staggering proportions.”

“An extensive body of empirical evidence, including the experiences of other nations in which similar laws have been enacted, strongly suggests that H.R. 1981 is not likely to result in any appreciable decrease in crimes committed against children. Congress is rightly concerned about the horrific crime of child exploitation, but the proper response to such concerns is a narrowly tailored approach that preserves Internet freedom and minimizes burdens on the private sector while enabling law enforcement to bring child predators to justice.”

Read the full coalition letter here.