ENDitorial : Fighting Mass Surveillance

By EDRi · September 13, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Digital Rights Ireland was established last year to further civil rights in
the Digital Age. We are challenging the European Institutions and the Irish
government through the courts to stop their program of mass surveillance of
citizens. Our litigation will have an impact on digital rights across

Every day you move around in society you benefit from an invisible web of
rights, built up over hundreds of years, which allow you to do the things
you take for granted without unwarranted interference. Things like sending a
letter knowing that it won’t be monitored by the state along the way. Things
like meeting people or going to public lectures without being followed by
the police just in case you, or one of the people in the room with you,
might do something illegal now or later.

Those are our familiar rights. The courts and international treaties have
affirmed them, and the government will, usually, publicly acknowledge that
it should not breach them.

Legislators and governments are bringing in new laws to deny us these rights
in the digital age. So-called data-retention laws have been drafted which
result in modern technologies being used to strip of us of our rights.

Under this legislation, telephone record data and information about Internet
access has to be collected on a blanket basis by the Internet Service
Provider and has to be retained for years. If you carry a mobile phone, the
information retained will include information about your movements and who
you associate with. The information will be collected and stored on
everyone, regardless of whether you are a criminal, a policeman, a priest, a
judge, or an ordinary citizen. Once collected, this information is wide open
to misappropriation and misuse. No evidence has been produced to suggest
that data retention laws will do anything to stop terrorism or organized

We are fighting these mass surveillance laws. These mass surveillance laws
are a direct, deliberate attack on our right to have a private life, without
undue interference by the government. That right is underpinned in the laws
of European countries and is also explicitly stated in Article 8 of the
European Convention on Human Rights. The Article specifies that public
authorities may only interfere with this right in narrowly defined

It is legitimate, of course, that law-enforcement agencies should have
access to some call data. Such information has helped in several
high-profile prosecutions. But access must be proportional to the threat
posed. In particular, there should be clear evidence of a need to move
beyond the six months of storage for these data already mandated for billing
purposes. Neither the European Commission nor the European police forces
have made any case as to why they might require years of data to be

Data Retention, as legislated for in most European countries and mandated by
the Data Retention Directive is unjustified mass surveillance. The
government is deliberately recording information about innocent citizens
without cause.

In collaboration with other EDRI organizations, we have fought data
retention during the legislative process at the national and EU level over
the last year. Although there was some softening of the legislation as a
result, it still offends against the fundamental right to a private life.

Accordingly, we have launched a legal challenge to the Irish government’s
power to pass these laws. We say that it is contrary to the Irish
Constitution as well as Irish and European Data Protection laws.

We also challenge the claim that the European Commission and Parliament had
the power to enact the Data Retention Directive. We say that this kind of
mass surveillance is a breach of Human Rights, as recognised in the European
Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights which
all EU member states have endorsed.

If we are successful, the effect from a European Perspective of our legal
challenge will be to undermine Data Retention laws in all EU states, and to
overturn the Data Retention Directive. A ruling from the ECJ that Data
Retention is contrary to Human Rights will be binding on all member states,
their courts and the EU institutions.

Ireland is a particularly well placed jurisdiction from which to launch such
a challenge- it has a written constitution, exposure in English to the
activist judicial precedents from the US, a long-standing tradition of
judicial review of executive decisions and has long been active in the
promotion of international Human Rights standards.

We are at the edge of Europe, but our action has profound actions for the
whole European Union. We are the only group bringing a legal challenge and
we need your support. We need support on a number of fronts:

– We need you to spread the word. If you’d like to know more about Digital
Rights Ireland’s case against Data Retention, or would like to support it
http://www.digitalrights.ie. If you have a web site or blog tell your readers
about mass surveillance and link to us.

– In particular, it is important that we get European-wide blogger and media
coverage for this launch. If you can help with this please ask to be added
to our press list. Email us at contact – @ – digitalrights.ie.

– And of course we need money. We need to raise a significant amount of
money to sustain the litigation, at least EUR 80,000. That sounds like a
lot, but every small contribution makes a big difference. Please make a
contribution at http://www.digitalrights.ie/support, and please contact us
if you know of someone willing to make a major contribution.

(Contribution by Antoin O Lachtnain – EDRI-member Digital Rights Ireland)