“Retention of Data Bill is an unbelieveable farce”

They’re not our words (though we’d agree) but those of Adrian Weckler writing in the Sunday Business Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Unbelievable. That is the only word to describe the loophole that the new Retention of Data bill has created.

For those who missed it, the bill seeks to compel telephone and internet operators to retain details of emails, text messages and phone calls for up to two years. This is to help fight crime. But what are the most popular e-mail services for Irish users?

That’s right: Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Gmail. Will any of these e-mail services be covered by the bill? Nope. Will messages or instant chat on Facebook, Bebo and Twitter be covered under the bill? No again.

And it gets worse. The bill is supposed to track telephone calls to identify who called who at what time. But will it cover calls made on Skype, Blueface or any of the dozens of VOIP services that Irish people use in their thousands? Nope. Will it cover Skype calls made on mobile phones (like the iPhone or 3’s Inq phone)? No again.

The state’s view of criminals’ communications habits is quite clear. They use a contract mobile phone to make and receive calls and texts. They use a Microsoft Exchange e-mail account hosted with a recognised Irish internet service provider.

And they have an Eircom phone line, on which they organise gang meetings with key lieutenants.

I would really like to know who drafted this bill. What age are they? Have they ever heard of social networking sites? Have they ever heard of Skype? Or do they simply think that organised criminals are complete idiots who openly converse with each other on server-hosted Microsoft Exchange e-mail accounts?

More from yesterday’s Sunday Business Post: 1, 2, 3.