TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Campaigners Prepare to Battle EU Data Storage Bill

Campaigners Prepare to Battle EU Data Storage Bill

Huw Jones (
Sun, 21 Aug 2005 13:09:39 -0500

By Huw Jones

Telecom firms and civil liberty groups are readying themselves to
influence a battle next month between European Union member states and
the European Commission over rival plans to log calls and emails to
combat terror.

A council of EU justice and interior ministers put forward a
data-logging plan after the March 2004 Madrid train bombs, saying
retaining such data would help tackle terror and other crime. The
attacks in London in July revived the plan.

EU ministers have pledged to reach final agreement in October, but the
Commission hopes it can persuade ministers to switch to the
executive's proposal for a directive next month.

The council text would only need member state approval, while the
Commission's would need the go-ahead from the European Parliament as
well as member states.

"We expect the directive to be presented mid-September," said
Alexander Alvaro, the German EU deputy responsible for data retention.
The Commission has said it would present its proposal after the

"I don't believe the council will ignore this because if they do it
would be an institutional slap in the face. Lobbying has increased
quite a lot and now it's becoming serious."

The presidency of the EU, currently held by Britain, had no immediate

Neither proposal seeks to log the content of email and telephone
traffic. A draft of the Commission's proposal was recently obtained by
the European Digital Rights group EDRI.

The Commission wants calls and email traffic to be retained for six
months to a year, while member states proposed up to 48 months. The
council plan wants all Web addresses people use to be logged but the
Commission draft makes no mention of this.

Over 27,000 people have already signed an EDRI online anti-logging

"Large scale data mining will lead to many people's innocent behavior
becoming suspicious," said Sjoera Nas, board member of EDRI, which
sees no need for either proposal.

"There will be this whole climactic battle in September between the
Commission and the justice ministers," Nas said.

Telecom firms outside the European Union also worry a lengthy
retention period would become the norm for them as well.

"What benefit is only half a call record? If American carriers are
either originating or terminating an international call, then they are
in fact covered by this requirement," Stephen Trotman, a senior vice
president at U.S. carrier industry group CompTel in Washington said.

"What's going to happen is that the additional cost of retaining,
storing and sorting that data is going to be shifted to the consumer.
The consumers will pay for their own privacy to be invaded," Trotman

The council plan makes no mention of who would pay extra IT costs,
while the Commission says in its draft proposal that governments
should contribute toward compliance costs.

A study by Dutch Erasmus University shows in nearly all 65 cases where
traffic data was useful in combating crime, the police got the
information they needed from data going back three months -- the
typical period data is already stored by telecom firms for billing

"Three months in general should be enough for storing data," Alvaro

German industry bodies BITKOM, BDI and VATM said a solid and
adequate impact study of the proposals has not been done and that any
retention period must not exceed six months.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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