Implementing data retention – where’s the consultation?

Letter from Justice re data retention consultation

This is a letter which the Department of Justice wrote in July 2006 indicating that they would consult us before drafting any measures implementing the Data Retention Directive. 18 months later we still haven’t heard anything concrete from them, despite reports that they plan to put laws in place within the next month. Equally in the dark are the ISPs and others in the internet industry who will face the technical challenges and cost of implementation:

Given the short timeframe for putting this legislation into action, the industry – ie ISPs – should know the score. They are charged with the responsibility of storing this vast bank of data on the Irish citizen, but frustratingly they are still not quite sure of their role in the process.

“We, as ISPs, do not have any difficulty with the objective of fighting serious crime but what we need are clear instructions on the expectations of governments across Europe as to what exactly it is we have to retain and when,” says Durrant.

Shane Deasy, managing director for wireless internet provider BitBuzz, while willing and able to comply with the new legislation, echoes Durrant’s sentiment: “There is a grey area – details we have yet to get answers to.

“The industry has met with the Department of Justice and has had several discussions on this forthcoming legislation but to my knowledge the industry has not yet been given information on exactly what data they are required to store and for how long.

“It may require a lot more storage on the part of the ISPs but at the moment we simply don’t know exactly what we are going to be asked to retain.”

Such is the confusion that Google has recently voiced its concerns on its Public Policy blog, stating that the approach taken by Justice may have the effect of damaging the Irish internet industry:

Ireland looks set to be amongst the first countries to transpose the directive. Concerns have been expressed that sufficient time may not be available for a full debate to discuss the very complex issues involved. There is also a real risk that a rushed transposition process could produce legislation which negatively impacts on consumer privacy and is harmful to the internet and telecomms sector. Our view is that it is vital that the reasonable concerns of privacy advocates and industry are taken into account. Google is going to take advantage of the current window of opportunity to get our views across, and we hope that other interested parties will do likewise.

So what will it take before the Department of Justice is prepared to engage in real consultation?