EU: Data Protection Commissioners calls for harmonised safeguards on the use of mandatory data retention

The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party has adopted an Opinion on the mandatory data retention Directive adopted on 21 February 2006, and calls for safeguards to be introduce when it is implemented at national level as it will:

"encroach into daily life of every citizen and may endanger the fundamental values and freedoms"

The Directive makes mandatory the collection and storing of traffic data on all phone-calls, faxes, e-mails, mobile phone calls (including location) and internet usage (15 member states have deferred this last aspect for 18 months).

The Working Party calls for safeguards to be introduced in a "harmonised way" when the Directive is implemented at national level and makes eight specific proposals including:

1. The term "serious crime" should be clearly defined and limited and:

"Any further processing should be ruled out or limited stringently on the basis of specific safeguards"

2. "Fishing expeditions" should be banned:

"No data mining: Investigation, detection and prosecution of the offences referred to in the Directive should not entail large-scale data-mining based on retained data, in respect of the travel and communication patterns of people unsuspected by law enforcement authorities."

3. "Access to data should, in principle, be duly authorised on a case by case basis by judicial authorities"

4. Public order data: "Providers of public electronic communication services or networks are not allowed to process data retained solely for public order purposes under the Data Retention Directive for other purposes"

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"Time and time again EU governments are "harmonising" the powers of the state to place individuals under surveillance, when are they going to "harmonise" the right of the individuals against the misuse and abuse of state power?"

Sources

Article 29 Data Protection Working Party Opinion (WP 119) on mandatory data retention (pdf)
Final version of the Directive on mandatory retention of traffic data from the Official Journal (pdf)
See also: Data retention and police access in the UK - a warning for Europe
Full background and documentation see: Statewatch Observatory on the surveillance of telecommunications in the EU



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