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Today is a poor day for privacy on the Internet, after the European Parliament voted in favour of controversial data retention regulations.

The vote reverses the Parliament's previous opposition to granting wide ranging surveillance powers to police and security services. And it has been slammed by civil liberties group zas a move to Big Brother surveillance on Europeans.

The amendments to the EU Communications Data Protection Directive, put forward by the EPP/conservative group and backed by the PSE/socialist group, were agreed, in spite of a fierce opposition from left-leaning groups in the European Parliament.

Ilka Schroeder MEP, shadow rapporteur of the United European Left Group, in voting in the measures Western democrats has surpassed the "surveillance achievements of Eastern Germany's former Stasi".

"From today on, the fundamental right to privacy is fundamentally questioned for everyone using electronic means of communication - no matter whether they are telephone, Internet or fax," said Schroeder.

"The unlimited retention of communication data, as it is laid down in Article 15.1 of the directive voted today, paves the way for unlimited access to all kinds of personal communication. Data retention means: communication data will no longer be intercepted exclusively at the time the communication takes place, but may be analysed years later retrospectively," she added.

Marco Cappato, Radical MEP of the Lista Bonino and EP rapporteur on the directive on privacy in electronic communications, said Belgium, Holland, Germany, the UK are working on data retention laws that could make possible the "generalised, massive surveillance of the citizens".

The data retention measures aimed at fighting against terrorism and protecting democracy, have the effect of damaging it, according to Cappato.

Critics of the measures have pledged to carry on their campaign against them both in the European Parliament and at national level. ®

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External Links

The tangled history of the directive, by Statewatch

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