International Group Calls for an End to EU Data Retention

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The San-Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called for the E.U.'s Data Retention Directive to be abolished, saying that the law, which requires telecom companies to retain logs of subscribers' network use, is "disproportionate and unpopular with citizens."

The EFF may find it has European allies in its campaign, as the directive is also unpopular with many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Civil Liberties committee MEP Alexander Alvaro, for example, recently described the directive as "absurd." Even the European Commission's own Article 29 Working Party (WP29) criticized the directive in July, saying that more coordination is needed between member states and that the period for retaining data should be shortened.

The directive was established in 1995 and orders E.U. countries to pass laws requiring telecom companies to keep records of when its services were used, and by whom, for periods of between six months and two years depending on the country. This data must be made available to police and other national authorities.

The directive faced challenges in German and Romanian courts on the grounds of unconstitutionality and breach of the right to privacy, respectively. The countries ended up implementing their own versions of the law. The EFF's Eva Galperin said that this shows that mandatory data retention regimes are "disproportionate and unnecessary."

The directive is currently under review and an impact assessment, as well as new legislative proposals, will be presented in 2011.

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