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Press release: The data retention regimes of France, United Kingdom and Belgium are illegal says CJEU

Note: This quick reaction is based on the Court’s press release. A more thorough analysis of the judgement will be published later this week.

By EDRi · October 6, 2020

Today 6 October 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its verdict on four data retention cases in France, Belgium and the UK, in the context of these countries surveillance programmes. The European Court of Justice ruled that the surveillance laws of France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom fail to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms. The CJEU rules that general and indiscriminate data retention is allowed under EU law when the State faces a “serious threat to national security” that is present or foreseeable, but only under the scrutiny of courts or independent administrative bodies and when this is done only temporarily. Finally, the CJEU specifies that national courts cannot use information obtained from bulk retention regimes against suspects in criminal proceedings.

“Today’s judgement is a massive blow to existing laws in France, UK and Belgium and to other current data retention practices by Member States”, said Diego Naranjo, Head of Policy at European Digital Rights (EDRi). “With this judgement, the CJEU essentially rules that, States can only engage in general and indiscriminate data retention when they face a “serious threat to national security” that is present or foreseeable, when subject to a court or administrative body review. The CJEU has put a stop to current illegal practices and disregards practices that are not under a national court’s scrutiny in the name of national security or in the fight against “terrorism””, he added.

Data retention practices entail the storage of traffic and location data (metadata) by telecommunications companies for an extended period of time in order to ensure the availability of such data for law enforcement purposes. As electronic communications technologies are increasingly used in the course of criminal activity, electronic communications data can play an important role in criminal investigations. Mandating the bulk retention of this data, however, poses serious risks to the right to privacy and communications freedoms.

Read more:

CJEU Press Release (06.10.2020)

Launch of Data Retention: Revisited Booklet

Privacy International: Press release:

Privacy International: Q&A:

La Quadrature du Net: Press release:

Data retention: “National security” is not a blank cheque (29.01.2020)