New EU questionnaire on data retention
The working party on co-operation in criminal matters (Justice ministry officials) has issued a new questionnaire about data retention to all member states. Answers have to be given by 29 July 2004, the results will be debated in the next meeting of the working party on 27 and 28 September 2004. Clearly the Dutch presidency of the EU is pushing the proposal ahead from the UK, Ireland, France and Sweden to create a framework decision on data retention. This proposal was introduced on 28 April 2004, to store the internet and telephony communication data from all 450 million European citizens for a period of 12 to 36 months, for law enforcement purposes. In the proceedings of the meeting, the ministers promise “An explanatory note on the proposal from the four Member States will follow.”
According to the proceedings “A number of concerns were raised by different delegations, including: The exact scope and aim of the instrument and the exact kind of data covered needed to be examined/clarified. (…) The draft Framework Decision also concerned prevention, which went further than mutual assistance in criminal matters. The parts of the text on prevention needed clarification. The minimum period for retention of traffic data needed further examination, and was too long in the view of some delegations.”
If the ministers of the member states accept the proposal for a framework decision, all traces of telephony of internet usage of all EU citizens will be stored for a long time. These so-called traffic data reveal who has been calling and e-mailing whom, which websites they have visited, and even where people were with their mobile phones.
The questionnaire is a follow-up to a previous questionnaire in 2002, in order to get updated information on traffic data from the 15 old Member States and to get information on the same subject from the 10 new Member States
The answers to the 2002 questionnaire showed 10 out of 15 member states had some sort of legal obligation to store traffic data, or were finalising new legislation. Only Austria, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden did and do not have any such obligation, while in the UK providers were pressured to voluntarily collaborate.
Questions 3, 4 and 6 of the new questionnaire seem designed to meet criticism about the proportionality, asking whether law enforcement agencies have specified the types of data they need in their investigations, to mention types of offences where the use of retained traffic data has proven to be of substantial importance for the investigation and finally if there are any reports from law enforcement authorities that indicate difficulties due to the non-existence of mandatory data retention. Question 7 seems the result from severe protest from the European association of internet service providers (ISPA), and asks whether countries reimburse the providers for the costs caused by the retention.
Proceedings of the working party of 4 June 2004 (25.06.2004)
Presidency Questionnaire on traffic data retention (25.06.2004)
EU questionnaire to member states on data retention (14.08.2002)
Answers to the questionnaire (20.11.2002)