EU: Open Letter from civil society groups to the European Parliament calling on MEPs to reject Data Retention

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6 December 2005

To all Members of the European Parliament
We the undersigned are calling on you to reject the 'Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the Retention of Data Processed in Connection with the Provision of Public Electronic Communication Services and Amending Directive 2002/58/EC' when it comes to a plenary vote on December 12, 2005.

Adopting this Directive would cause an irreversible shift in civil liberties within the European Union. It will adversely affect consumer rights throughout Europe. And it will generate an unprecedented obstacle to the global competitiveness of European industry.

A Directive Fraught with Problems
In the Information Society every human action generates transaction logs. Our movements, our purchases, and our interactions with others can be routinely logged in public and private sector databases. In recognition of this, the European Union led the world in establishing a data privacy regime to limit the collection, processing, retention, and accessing of this information. Now the Council is demanding that the European Parliament reverse its position and lead the world in introducing mass surveillance of our activities.

Under existing EU law many of these logs are already available for law enforcement purposes for as long as the telecom industry service providers retain them for business purposes. Justice and Home Affairs officials are pushing to make available even greater stores of information.

The Directive proposes the collection of information on everybody's communications and movements. The storage of such "communications traffic data" allows whoever has access to it to establish who has electronically communicated with whom and at what time and at which location, over months and years.

In recent meetings with the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 1 and 2 December 2005, it appears that the European Parliament suddenly agreed to the collection of information on everybody's communications and movements for very broad law enforcement purposes, in spite of having rejected this policy twice before.

We call on the Members of the European Parliament to reject this policy for the following reasons.

1. This Directive invades the privacy of all Europeans. The Directive calls for the indiscriminate collection and retention of data on a wide range of Europeans' activities. Never has a policy been introduced that mandates the mass storage of information for the mere eventuality that it may be of interest to the State at some point in the future.

2. The proposed Directive is illegal. It contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights by proposing the indiscriminate and disproportionate recording of sensitive personal information. Political, legal, medical, religious and press communications would be logged, exposing such information to use and abuse.

3. The Directive threatens consumer confidence. More than 58,000 Europeans have already signed a petition opposing the Directive. A German poll revealed that 78% of citizens were opposed to a retention policy. The Directive will have a chilling effect on communications activity as consumers may avoid participating in entirely legal transactions for fear that this will be logged for years.

4. The Directive burdens EU industry and harms global competitiveness. Retention of all this data creates additional costs of hundreds of millions of Euros every year. These burdens are placed on EU industry alone. The U.S., Canada and the Council of Europe have already rejected retention.

5. The Directive requires more invasive laws. Once adopted, this Directive will prove not to be the ultimate solution against serious crimes. There will be calls for additional draconian measures including:

the prior identification of all those who communicate, thus requiring ID cards at cybercafes, public telephone booths, wireless hotspots, and identification of all pre-paid clients;
the banning of all international<

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