European Commission consults with civil society on data retention

By EDRi · June 15, 2011

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Deutsch: [Vorratsdatenspeicherung: Europäische Kommission berät sich mit Zivilgesellschaft |]

Last week, the European Commission held the first of its series of
consultation meetings with different groups of stakeholders on the revision
of the infamous Data Retention Directive. The first meeting was with the
“civil society”, including representatives of industry and one lobbying
company representing unspecified clients.

The meeting was originally intended to address the details of the Directive.
However, civil society representatives broadly took the view that it was
impossible to have a coherent discussion on the Directive itself, if the
Member States were going to fail to provide credible data to the Commission
for its decision-making process. As evidenced by the Commission’s
Implementation Report, there is simply not enough data available from the
Member States to show that the Directive is “necessary” (the minimum
requirement for it to be legal).

Participants at the meeting felt that if the Commission was going to be
forced to defend the Directive using anecdotes about the use of data that
would have been retained even in the absence of the Directive, the whole
process, including the consultations, would be undermined. In particular,
participants requested that the Commission only used information from Member
States related to data stored under the Directive. Also older data should be
considered “necessary” only if the delay in accessing the data could have
been avoided through better police cooperation.

The Commission asked for an expert from the Council of Europe to present a
law enforcement view of the relative merits of data retention and data
preservation. The expert, from the Serbian police, explained that long-term
retention of data is the only solution and compared the proportionality of
retaining vast amounts of data in relation to innocent and unsuspected
citizens to trawling the Danube to find a dead body. The fact that the river
is big is not a reason not to find the body. It was unclear who he was
representing at the meeting.

Despite that, the overall feeling is that the meeting was productive. The
concerns raised appear to have been taken on board by the Commission, which
will take our demands to their meeting with the law enforcement authorities
and the communications industry. Participants also appreciated the
willingness of the Commission to acknowledge the fact that political
decisions have already been taken on the dossier and the Commission’s
promise that a serious evaluation of data preservation would be included in
the upcoming impact assessment.

The Commission has the unenviable task of trying to
extract the necessary data from the Member States and the probably
impossible task of producing a revised legislative proposal which is both
legal and which will not end up gathering dust on a shelf in the Council of
Ministers after being vetoed by certain large Member States.

European Commission Data Retention Evaluation Report (18.04.2011)

EDRi Shadow Report (17.04.2011)

Panoptykon Foundation article on the meeting (only in Polish, 10.06.2011)

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi )