Congressman reverses on law enforcement-backed law requiring storage of text messages and more

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Madison Ruppert
Activist Post

Image credit:
Leadership Conference on Civil
and Human Rights  – Flickr

While Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, originally indicated that he agreed with a law enforcement-backed data retention proposal to be attached to a revised version of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), his aides now say that he misspoke.

Sensenbrenner is a noted crusader for widespread government surveillance based on an absurd fear of terrorism and has been unrelenting in his fight against privacy.

This has most recently been shown in his apparent backing of a data retention requirement to be added to the ECPA which was endorsed by various law enforcement organizations and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice also sought to expand government surveillance powers in some ways to cover everything from text messages to e-mails, Twitter direct messages, Facebook messages and more while limiting it in some minor ways.

However, aides later told CNET that “their boss had misspoke and was talking about data preservation in response to law enforcement requests — not about a new data retention proposal.”

An anonymous source close to the situation told CNET that the reversal came in response to pressure from lobbyists who support ECPA reform.

“I have long opposed data retention and do not believe that any ECPA reform package should include such a mandate,” Sensenbrenner said in a subsequent statement. “Data retention requires a provider to retain information about the Internet use of all of its customers. A data retention mandate raises privacy concerns because it affects all users, not just bad actors.”

The statements made by Sensenbrenner earlier in the day had some major players including Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter quite concerned.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t so much due to the massive privacy problems inherent in such data retention but because “if the data retention mandate is attached to the ECPA reform bill, it will amount to a poison pill that will doom the legislation,” according to CNET.

This type of reversal is hardly surprising coming from Sensenbrenner. In 2006 Sensenbrenner drafted data retention legislation and just two days later backed away from it.


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