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The European Union parliamentary committee on civil liberties has approved the latest version of the data retention directive, putting it on track to pass the parliament's plenary vote in December.

German MEP Alexander Alvaro says the current version of the bill is far more balanced than the original Commission proposal.

The new draft obliges communications providers to retain all telephone and internet traffic data for a year (phone calls) and six months (internet data), but it also requires governments to compensate businesses for the costs they will incur in so doing.

It also states the only a judge may authorise access to data about telephone and internet traffic, something that was not included in the original draft. It also makes it optional for organisations to keep data about incomplete calls, something the Council has previously asked to be made mandatory.

"Everything that makes this directive proportionate and balanced is now in, especially concerning the limitation of data types, limitation on storage period, safeguards on access and sanctions," Alvaro told Reuters.

Before the bill can become law it will also need the approval of the European Council, made up of ministers from member states. Gaining this agreement might not be a formality, as some of the changes may not sit well with member states.

Alvaro notes: "It had a two-thirds majority in committee, and I think this is a quite realistic estimation for plenary too. Now Council will have to move."

The committee backed the bill by 33 votes to eight, with five abstentions, Reuters reports. ®

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