EDRI and PI call on EP to reject data retention

By EDRi · December 5, 2005

European Digital Rights and Privacy International are urgently calling on the individual members of the European Parliament to reject the misguided compromise proposal on data retention. Party leaders of the christian-democrats and social-democrats in the parliament have agreed behind closed doors to allow for mandatory data retention of telephony and internet data for a period of 6 to 24 months, with even longer terms at the individual discretion of every member state, including the purpose of ‘prevention of criminal offences’. This compromise completely overrules the suggestions of the appropriate parliamentary LIBE committee and ignores all the legal and technical objections against the inclusion of location and internet data.

On Tuesday 6 December the open letter will be offered to all 731 members of the European Parliament, endorsed by many digital rights groups, providers, consumer unions and other concerned parties. The full list of endorsements will be available on Tuesday afternoon 6 December.

The letter mentions 5 reasons to reject the proposal:

1. This Directive invades the privacy of all Europeans. The Directive calls for the indiscriminate collection and retention of data on a wide range of Europeans’ activities. Never has a policy been introduced that mandates the mass storage of information for the mere eventuality that it may be of interest to the State at some point in the future.

2. The proposed Directive is illegal. It contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights by proposing the indiscriminate and disproportionate recording of sensitive personal information. Political, legal, medical, religious and press communications would be logged, exposing such information to use and abuse.

3. The Directive threatens consumer confidence. More than 58,000 Europeans have already signed a petition opposing the Directive. A German poll revealed that 78% of citizens were opposed to a retention policy. The Directive will have a chilling effect on communications activity as consumers may avoid participating in entirely legal transactions for fear that this will be logged for years.

4. The Directive burdens EU industry and harms global competitiveness. Retention of all this data creates additional costs of hundreds of millions of Euros every year. These burdens are placed on EU industry alone. The U.S., Canada and the Council of Europe have already rejected retention.

5. The Directive requires more invasive laws. Once adopted, this Directive will prove not to be the ultimate solution against serious crimes. There will be calls for additional draconian measures including:
– the prior identification of all those who communicate, thus requiring ID cards at cybercafes, public telephone booths, wireless hotspots, and identification of all pre-paid clients;
– the banning of all international communications services such as webmail (e.g. Hotmail and Gmail) and blocking the use of non-EU internet service providers and advanced corporate services.

According to the letter, the vote is a key moment, that might set in motion a chain of events that will lead to a surveillance society. The compromise-proposal lacks limits to the access and limits to the use. “Though the Council claims retention will combat terrorism, for years it has rejected limiting the legislation to such investigations. Even if access to this data were limited by the Parliament to a list of serious crimes nothing prevents the expansion of this list: already the Copyright Industry has called for access to this data to combat file-sharing online.”

The European Parliament will have its first and final vote on Monday evening 12 December in Strasbourg. Given the low attendance in general in Strasbourg, and the fact Monday evening many attending MEPs won’t have arrived, the vote seems reduced to a showpiece.

EDRI and PI letter to the European Parliament (06.12.2005)

Translation in French (by EDRI-member IRIS)

Translation in Polish (by EDRI-observer ISOC Poland)