Civil liberties groups ask EU to repeal data retention directive

By EDRi · December 2, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Bürgerrechtsgruppen fordern die Widerrufung der Richtlinie zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung von der EU|]

Civil liberties groups European Digital Rights (EDRi) and the German
Working Group on Data Retention (AK Vorrat) are calling on the European
Union to repeal the 2006 directive on the data retention of electronic
communications. In the event that the directive is not repealed, they
demand that it is amended to introduce an opt-out right allowing Member
States to decide whether or not to require the retention of
communications data.

In a statement to the European Commission published today, AK Vorrat
points out that the directive has resulted in less liberty for citizens,
in a constant threat that information on personal contacts, mobile phone
movements and Internet use may be sold, lost or otherwise cause harm, as
well as in higher prices for telecommunications services and in less

In a legal complaint regarding the directive filed with the European
Court of Justice in 2006 and disclosed today on the Internet, Ireland
pointed out that initially, many countries had not imposed any data
retention requirements and that “no issue relating to the internal
market could justify the imposition upon a Member State of an obligation
to require telecommunications operators to retain data (…) where no
such obligations previously existed under the law of that State”.

In several Member States, courts examined and are examining complaints
filed by citizens and telecommunications operators, alleging that the
indiscriminate collection of communications data violates the human
right to privacy. Constitutional Courts in Romania and Bulgaria
have already ruled data retention legislation unconstitutional. The
German Federal Constitutional Court will hear complaints filed by over
34 000 citizens in December. Another action is pending in Ireland,
while an application to the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic
is currently being prepared.

“In a landmark decision taken last year, the European Court of Human
Rights declared illegal a British DNA and fingerprints database, stating
that ‘the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the powers of retention
(…) constitutes a disproportionate interference’ with privacy and
‘cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society.’ The same
is the case with the blanket and indiscriminate collection of
information on personal contacts, mobile phone movements and Internet
use”, comments legal expert Patrick Breyer (AK Vorrat). “Anonymity is
indispensable for a multitude of activities in a democratic state.
Subjecting all citizens to a constant recording of whom they are in
touch with is threatening to undermine or even destroy democracy while
ostensibly defending it. The Commission must put an end to this Big
Brother law now.”

“EDRi and its members have been campaigning against this directive for
years, arguing that such data retention is necessarily a hazardously
invasive act. Communication data is well beyond being simple logs of who
we’ve called and when we called them. Traffic data are now used to
create a map of human associations and more importantly, a map of human
activity and intention,” reminds Meryem Marzouki (EDRi). “With the
growing use of massive national databases, and the current plans towards
their interoperability at EU-level and full access for police purposes,
the data retention directive paves the way to further extensions of
purposes, where data once collected strictly for the requirements of a
given service delivery become used for citizens surveillance and social
control, when not for intelligence purposes. This is not acceptable in a
democratic society, and should be ended now.”

This press release is supported by:
– Dutch speaking League for Human Rights (Liga voor Mensenrechten) – Belgium
– French speaking League for Human Rights (Ligue des droits de
l’Homme) – Belgium
– Flemish Bar Association (Orde van Vlaamse Balies) – Belgium
– French and German speaking Bars of Belgium (Ordre des Barreaux
Francophones et Germanophone) – Belgium
– General Association of Professional Journalists in Belgium (AGJPB
– Association generale des Journalistes Professionnels de Belgique –
AVBB : Algemene Vereniging van Beroepsjournalisten in Belgie) – Belgium
– Statewatch – UK
– – Sweden

This press release in French – EDRI et AK Vorrat demandent à l’Union
européenne d’abroger la directive « rétention de données » (1.12.2009)

In German – Bürgerrechtsvereinigungen fordern EU zur Aufhebung der
Richtlinie zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung auf (1.12.2009),de/

Statment from AK Vorrat on Data retention (only in German, 1.12.2009)

Summary of AK Vorrat Recommendations in English (1.12.2009)

Irish Submission to the European Court of Justice (11.07.2006)

Romanian Constitutional Court decision against data retention (25.11.2009)

Bulgarian case against data retention (17.12.2008)

Germany: Class-action law suit against data retention,en/

Action against data retention in Ireland (14.09.2006)

EDRi’ campaign against the data retention