RealTime IT News

DoJ Expands Subpoenas to ISPs and Tech Companies

As many as 34 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and technology companies have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department in its continuing attempt to gather data to support a federal Internet child protection law, internetnews.com has learned.

Until now, Google has been the best-known recipient of DoJ subpoenas requesting information. That demand was recently settled with a partial victory for the government.

The latest federal demands for information focus on ISPs, such as AOL and EarthLink, as well as security software vendors including McAfee and Symantec.

The DOJ confirmed to internetnews.com the government is asking companies for information to defend the 1996 Child Online Protection Act against a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The law, which would use “contemporary community standards” to criminalize online material found “harmful to children”, has twice been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACLU is representing a challenge by online publishers that contend the federal law is too broad, would blunt free speech and that there are better methods for restricting access to Internet content.

“Quite a few” subpoenas were issued in 2005, confirmed Charles Miller, a DoJ spokesperson. The subpoenas were delivered last year, according to Miller.

"In defending COPA we would need to get as much information as we can to determine information we needed," Arif Alikhan, senior counsel to the Deputy U.S. Attorney General told reporters in a briefing yesterday in San Jose, Calif with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. When asked whether the DoJ sought information from 34 ISPs, Gonzalez said that number was "news to me." Whatever the number, Alikhan confirmed that Google was "the only one we had an issue with."

Symantec received a subpoena in June, according to Chris Paden, spokesperson for the security software vendor. The federal request covered “how our Internet filter for content works,” Paden told internetnews.com.

Rival PC security vendor McAfee reports receiving a similar government request for technical information. The company cooperated with the subpoena, according to Siobhan MacDermott, a vice president of corporate communications.