TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: EU Split Over Anti-Terror Phone Data Logging Rules

EU Split Over Anti-Terror Phone Data Logging Rules

News Wire (
Mon, 11 Jul 2005 10:13:44 -0500

The European Union is split over how to introduce a law requiring
phone and Internet usage records to be stored to help fight terrorism
in the wake of the London bombings, an EU official said on Monday.

The executive European Commission is drafting a proposal to harmonize
the rules for storing telephone, mobile and e-mail records across the
25-nation bloc, but EU president Britain is promoting a separate
initiative on the same issue.

The Commission's proposal could take up to three years because it
would require the assent of the European Parliament, which is
particularly sensitive to civil rights concerns and more open to
lobbying by telecommunications companies.

A quick deal among member governments would be open to less public
scrutiny and compliance would only be policed nationally.

The Commission says it is seeking to balance the imperatives of
security and crime-fighting against privacy concerns over handing data
to the police and the cost to telecoms companies of storing customer

Britain, supported by Ireland, France and Sweden, has led calls for EU
governments to agree new rules among themselves, excluding the
Parliament and the Commission, as London fears the two EU institutions
could slow down decision-making.

"In the Commission's opinion they are not complementary initiatives,"
European Commission justice spokesman Friso Roscam-Abbing told a daily
briefing, adding that the EU executive would launch its proposal in a
few months.

"We have to make a choice. The European Union has to choose the
instrument it goes for."

The four EU states proposed after the March 2004 Madrid bombings which
killed 191 people that telecommunications data should be stored
compulsorily for a minimum of one year.

The Commission has recommended a period of six months to a year to
reduce the storage cost for companies.

EU interior ministers will discuss data retention at a special meeting
on Wednesday called to speed up anti-terrorism cooperation after last
Thursday's four bomb attacks on London's transport system, which
killed at least 49 people.

Neither proposal calls for the content of electronic communications to
be recorded but investigators want to be able to trace numbers dialed,
including unsuccessful calls, and Internet addresses accessed.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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