EU denies plans to hold private data

Civil liberties group Statewatch has claimed that a document leaked to them contains vital evidence that the EU is about to make blanket data retention by ISPs and telcos compulsory for 12-24 months.

This means any European government would be able to access data about the source, destination and time of all personal emails.

Statewatch says that a "binding framework decision on the traffic and access for the law enforcement agencies" drafted by the Belgian government during its EU presidency has been leaked to them, proving the existence of Europe's proposals to monitor phone and email records for at least a year.

But Tim Snape, a council member of the EuroIspa (European Internet Services Providers Association) has refuted these claims and accused Statewatch of perpetrating a PR sting.

"There is no such draft framework decision and the Danish government [which now holds the EU presidency] has no plans to announce any such proposal," he said. We have spoken to representatives of the Danish presidency and there is no such draft framework on the table for discussion."

He claims that the supposed leak was a questionnaire, a consultation document that was sent out to all EU governments to assess their opinions on the issues involved in traffic data retention.

"I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Statewatch, but the way they are trying to achieve [their aim] is wrong," he remarked.

"I think Statewatch are just stirring the mud to raise their own profile. The questionnaire was not policy at all. There is no draft framework and if there was such a thing we haven't heard of it."

Under the current 1997 EU Directive on privacy in telecommunications, ISPs can retain data for billing purposes, after which it must be destroyed. However, if a person or group is suspected of criminal activity, law enforcement agencies can get access to their data traffic with a judicial order.

The Association of Internet Service providers agree with Statewatch in opposing mandatory data retention but support non-mandatory retention. "If [mandatory data retention] were introduced it would be an absolute disaster," Snape said. "The Ispa position is to work with the police but at the same time protect our customers and we can only that under the law. We want to help the police but also protect our customers so mandatory data protection is not helpful."

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