In testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday, Jason Weinstein (Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ Criminal Division) emphasized the importance of data retention from internet and cell phone service providers in fighting crime. He invited Congress to consider legislation that would strengthen data retention standards. Weinstein offered several examples of federal and state investigations that were stymied due to service providers’ inability to produce user records. In many instances, service providers had short or non-existent retention periods.
Currently, service providers are required to preserve user records only after receiving a request from law enforcement. There is no independent obligation to preserve user records for a fixed amount of time. Weinstein acknowledged that data retention requirements can be costly for service providers, but he said that leaving the decision up to providers did not properly account for the public safety interest in data retention. Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R-TX) was generally supportive of the DOJ’s request.