In August of 2005, a Florida investigator on the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) taskforce—a national network of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies dedicated to preventing online child pornography and other Internet crimes against children—received a video depicting the rape of a two-year old child. ICAC investigators traced the video to an IP address in Colorado associated with Comcast, one of the largest Internet service providers in that state. The only information needed to determine the location of the computer used to post this video was the record revealing which Comcast subscriber had been assigned to that particular address when the video was posted, just four months earlier. Unfortunately, by the time investigators requested the subscriber data, Comcast had already discarded the relevant IP address assignment records for that time period. The Comcast controversy is a solemn example of a situation where the availability of IP address data could have made all the difference. Instead, a dangerous child predator is still out on the loose, and the infant in the video could be the victim of ongoing sexual abuse. Making matters worse, it is not clear whether authorities receiving a similar lead today would fare any better than they did in this instance.
This post was originally published on the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal website on March 4, 2012. The original post can be accessed via the Archived Link button above.
Cole, Agatha M., "Politics, Privacy, and Child Pornography: The Battle Over Data Retention and H.R. 1981" (2012). AELJ Blog. 3.