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Data retention: Irish DP rep threatens to sue over secret order

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Irish Data Protection Commissioner Joe Meade has twice threatened to bring High Court proceedings against the Irish Government over an "invalid" order on data retention, secretly issued a year ago. According to a report by Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times, Meade claims the order is in breach of the Irish Constitution, lacks "the character of law" and is in breach of the principles of European Community law.

So he's cross, evidently. The Irish Times is subscription-only, but there's a copy at Karlin's weblog, here. The order was approved by the Cabinet and issued in April last year as a "stopgap" intended to retain data for criminal investigations until primary legislation could be brought in.

Irish communications operators have been queried by Meade over their retention of traffic data for up to six years, while he has criticised the three year period dictated by the order as "excessive." This information was obtained by Lillington under a Freedom of Information Act request - having one of these that works, UK readers may care to note, can be almost as useful as having a constitution. Or a Data Protection Commissioner who barks.

The barking, however, only seems likely to prompt the Government to do it legally. Lillington reports that the Department of Justice is expected to publish a Bill bringing in a mandatory three year retention period this term.

Lillington points out that if the current data were deemed to have been collected and stored illegally, "the State might have to destroy ALL of it held for the past year, and the telcos could lose their registration licence as data controllers, meaning they could not operate as they could not bill." Which would be an intriguing situation... ®

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