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Jarmal Richard

SmartCompany /

Do you know who else is in your chat room? It may be the Big Brother we’ve been reading about for years.

Who else is in your chat room?

If the US Department of Justice has its way, it will gain greater access to email files, web-browsing/search behavior and chat room activity under proposed data retention legislation to be considered this year by the US Congress.

The other day I came across Anne Broache’s recent article on CNET News.com entitled Feds: Details of ISP snooping haven’t been decided, covering the progress of data retention legislation.

Given the uptake of email and all things on-line in the day-to-day business world of entrepreneurs, greater access granted to the US Department of Justice to electronic communications and records will likely translate into commercial discussions and confidential information being stored at an ISP in a format and for a time duration outside the control of the owners of such information.

So why should the average entrepreneur care?

If you send and receive business related email, and you do business in the US, you may want to consider what sensitive business information flows freely from your Blackberry.

Should privacy concerns prevail over the coordination of data retention efforts to pursue criminals in cyberspace?

Whether it should or not won’t matter once these US ISP data retention laws take effect; which is highly likely.

Just ask the EU. They have had similar ISP data retention laws since February 2006, in an attempt to assist the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

Whether we like it or not, electronic communications will increasingly become permanently archived. The question is whether your sensitive business information will join those archives.

The best confidentiality agreement in the world won’t save your sensitive business information from ISP data retention laws. Maybe it’s time to dust off that old dinosaur called the fax machine for certain disclosures of business information.

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