The United States Department of Justice is lobbying for the passage of legislation that would require Internet service providers to retain customer usage records for up to two years.
Currently, ISPs are only required to retain data for specific users after receiving a request from law enforcement officials.
The issue was raised at subcommittee hearings chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who had introduced similar legislation four years before subsequently withdrawing the proposal.
Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, argues the legislation is needed in order to more effectively investigate and prosecute Internet-based crime, particularly child exploitation.
"There is no doubt among public safety officials that the gaps between providers' retention policies and law enforcement agencies' needs, can be extremely harmful to the agencies' investigations," Weinstein offered in prepared testimony.
The proposal has strong support from the International Association of Chiefs of Police as well. "Clearly, preserving digital evidence is crucial in any modern-day criminal investigation," testified John Douglas, a representative for the organization.
Privacy advocates worry that this sort of legislation may threaten the privacy rights of law-abiding Internet users.
"In the privacy realm, the bottom line is that law enforcement is talking about having a massive amount of information on 230 million presumably innocent Americans using the Internet, being tracked and retained," offered John Morris of the Center for Democracy and Technology in testimony.