Germany misses EU data retention deadline, could face court action

EU Commission may take Germany to court over failure to implement data rules

Germany could face court action for failing to implement the European Union's Data Retention Directive, officials confirmed on Friday.

The country had until midnight on Thursday to implement the rules, which require huge amounts of telecommunications information, including data about emails, phone calls and text messages, to be stored for law enforcement purposes.

The directive has been controversial throughout Europe due to digital civil liberties concerns. The Free Democrats, a junior member of the German coalition government, is particularly opposed to it, while German data-protection commissioners last month described it as an invasion of privacy.

Germany originally transposed the directive into national law in 2008, but the Federal Constitutional Court later ruled the legislation was unconstitutional. Courts in Romania and the Czech Republic have issued similar rulings.

Other activists opposed to the directive said that the European Commission has not shown that the blanket retention of data is necessary. Some German politicians have instead suggested an alternative "quick freeze" system where data would be stored only after a court order based on probable cause. Later that data could be passed on to investigators and law enforcement. Digital civil liberties organizations see this has preferable to the collection of all users' data, all the time.

However on Friday, the Commission's Home Affairs spokesman, Michele Cercone, said that "the so-called quick freeze does not amount to a full transposition of the directive." He added that although the Data Retention Directive is currently under review, this "cannot be an excuse not to implement it".

If Germany is brought before the European Court of Justice and found guilty of violating the E.U. treaties, it would face a hefty fine.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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