The "law and order" lobby win the first round on the retention of data

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At the Telecommunications Council in Brussels on Wednesday, 27 June, the Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) agreed, unanimously, a position on the new Directive on data protection and privacy in the telecommunications sector. This would mean inserting a "Recital" which will allow Member States to adopt laws at national level to require network and services providers to retain traffic data for use by the law enforcement agencies.

The European Commission maintained its opposition to the move which will completely undermine current EU law which says that traffic data may only be kept for billing purposes (ie: to meet the needs of the customer). The Commission now hopes that the European Parliament will defend the existing law which protect citizens from surveillance. Under the co-decision procedure all three EU institutions have to agree on the new measure.

The Council could not agree on a formulation to change the substantive text in Article 6.1 on traffic data but the strength of lobby by some Member States, led by the UK, to breach current privacy and data protection rights in the interests of "law 'n order" carried the day. This was despite the declared opposition of the European Commision and the EU's Data Protection Working Party which declared that such a move would fundamentally undermines peoples' rights under the European Convention of Human Rights and threaten democracy itself.

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