Euro Data Retention: Crunch Time

We have posted previously about the moves to introduce data retention, for the purposes of allowing a deliberate surveillance of citizens, on an EU-wide basis. The Commission’s proposal for a directive on this matter would compound our own national statutory Data Retention regime, created by Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. Now we bring you an update, with some time critical information.

1. In response to pressure from the European Council, this matter has been fast tracked, and will require only one vote, rather than the usual two readings by the European Parliament.

2. That vote will be taken on the 12th December. This will be MEPs’ only opportunity to express or reflect their constituents’ opinion of this issue.

3. Prior to that vote, the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) will consider the Commission’s Draft Directive. In addition the Committees of Industry, Research and Energy and Internal Market and Consumer Protection will make opinion findings.

4. LIBE will vote on their findings tomorrow (24th November) at 10am. They have been meeting this week to discuss the issues.

5. This will have a very strong bearing on the matters put to the European Parliament for the vote on the 12th December.

6. There is only one Irish MEP on the LIBE – Mary Lou McDonald is an alternate member. It is well worth contacting her office to express your opinion on this matter.

7. Between tomorrow’s vote and a week before the Plenary vote (on 12th December) the MEPs are entitled to re-table amendments that didn’t get through the committee, or counter amendments to the ones that do.

8. The text of the decision to be voted on can be found, if you are willing to dig. If you aren’t, it can be found in this PDF.

9. As can be seen, the Commission’s Draft Directive has been modified in a number of significant ways.

* The removal of crime ‘prevention’ as a basis for infringing the privacy rights of citizens. (Amendment 1)
* The replacement of the Commission’s proposal of 1 year retention, except for Internet traffic which would be six months. The amended text has a blanket 3 months retention period regardless of the source of the data. (Amendment 9)
* The deletion of a number of unsustainable assertions. (Amendments 4,5 &6)
* Replaces ‘respect’ for the Fundamental rights of privacy in the European Charter with ‘compliance’. (Amendment 13)
* Provides a specific list of the serious crimes which would justify infringing the privacy rights of citizens. (Amendment 16)
* Removes the requirement to retain location data. (Amendments 17 & 24)
* Forces measures enacted to create data retention regimes to be compliant with EU Privacy Directives. (Amendment 20 & 38)
* Provides the basis on which the data shall be handled by the companies holding it, and the police. (Amendment 21)
* Specifically bars the keeping of data that reveals the content of a communication. (Amendment 26)
* Deletes the previously planned ‘blank cheque’ committee system which would have allowed member states to bypass Parliament after the original vote. Replaces it with a committee with representation from the Parliament and the European Data Protection Commissioners. Caps the potential extension of the retention period to 6 months. (Amendments 11, 28, 29& 49 )
* Establishes Parliamentary oversight of the use of the data retention laws. (Amendment 31 & 36)
* Creates a duty on the governments to ensure the security of the retained data. (Amendment 32)
* Full reimbursement of companies’ costs of compliance is reinforced. (Amendment 37)
* There is to be a review of the effectiveness of the law, against its stated aims, in 3 years. It will lapse unless specifically endorsed again in five years. (Amendments 39, 40, 41 & 42 )

10. From our point of view these are generally positive moves. But the argument in principle against mandatory data retention remains the same – it is an infringement of the privacy of the mass of innocent individuals, without an evidential argument demonstrating any benefit.

11. A petition will be handed in tomorrow to the LIBE committee, signed by over 58,000 people across Europe against data retention.

12. Your MEP will have the right to vote on this issue on the 12th December. This Directive will determine the relationship between EU governments and their citizens for years to come. Take a look at this page, find your MEP and contact them. Tell them your opinion, and then ask them for theirs. And get a commitment from them to attend the vote.

13. Let DRI know who you’ve spoken to, and what they said. It will help us to remind them closer to the vote on the 12th. We’re at