Are anonymous electronic services to be prohibited by the EC?

By EDRi · April 22, 2009

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Deutsch: [Sollen anonyme elektronische Dienste von der Europäischen Kommission verboten werden? |]

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Macedonian: [Европската комисија ќе ги забрани… |,mk/]

Having in view the data retention law requirements and the fact that data
retention can be avoided by the use of anonymous services, the question
arises whether anonymous electronic systems will be prohibited as well by
the European Commission (EC).

In this sense, Swedish MEP Jens Holm has recently addressed this issue to
the Commission as he considers reliable systems are necessary in order for
private individuals or companies to be able to provide anonymous information
in relation to criminal or financial crime trials. Some individuals may not
dare to contact the police or the mass media, preferring to send anonymous
emails with important information they may hold.

Holm asked the EC whether it intended to prepare a proposal to prohibit such
services within certain fields, whether the Commission believed the Member
States had the right to prohibit such services and whether it considered
that the right to electronic anonymity should be guaranteed in the EU.

EC Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Responsible of Justice, Freedom and
Security answered on behalf of EC stating that there were no current plans
for the EC to submit a proposal to prohibit the use of anonymising services
but that the Commission was studying the impact of such services “on the
ability of law enforcement bodies to provide security to the citizens in the

While the need to maintain the possibility of providing information
anonymously to the relevant organizations had to be considered, in EC’s
opinion, the Member States had the responsibility to safeguard their
internal security. In case anonymising services might limit their
possibility to do so, “they may consider regulating the use of these
services, while respecting the European Convention on Human Rights and other
principles and guarantees regarding civil liberties in Europe and their
obligations under the Treaties. Any such measures must be duly justified and
must be proportionate and limited to what is necessary in a democratic

Barrot answered that the EU legislation provides for the fundamental right
to protection of personal data and that “personal data must be processed
fairly and lawfully, including the data minimisation principle. This
principle may be furthered by the use of anonymous data wherever possible.”
However, the EC leaves room for future restrictive actions. “Member
States may adopt measures to restrict the scope of these principles which
are necessary to safeguard important public interests such as national
security or law enforcement, including combating terrorism or fighting

European Commission position on anonymisers (12.04.2009)

Written Question by Jens Holm (GUE/NGL) to the Commission – Anonymity

Parliamentary questions- Answer given by Mr Barrot on behalf of the
Commission (3.04.2009)