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EFF calls for repeal of Data Retention Directive

Retaining logs of network use is 'disproportionate and unpopular'

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Digital rights campaign group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called for the abolition of the European Union's Data Retention Directive, the law that demands that telecoms companies retain logs of subscribers' use of their networks.

The EFF, based in San Francisco, wants the EU's data protection watchdogs to pressure the European Union's governing bodies to repeal the law, claiming that it is disproportionate and unpopular with citizens.

The Directive orders countries to pass laws forcing telecoms companies to keep records of when its services were used and by whom. This information is then made available for passing to police and other state authorities. Countries can choose a retention period as short as six months and no longer than two years.

"The Data Retention Directive is highly controversial, if not wildly unpopular throughout the European Union," said the EFF's Eva Galperin in a blog post. "The directive was strongly opposed by European privacy activists ... as each country in the EU has implemented the Data Retention Directive in their own law, they have faced challenges in state courts."

The EU committee of data protection watchdogs, the Article 29 Working Party, published a report on the Directive earlier this year calling for a restriction in the period of retention. It said that the Directive had not been consistently applied by EU member states.

It said that there should be closer harmonisation in the implementation of the Directive in EU countries, and that the period of retention should shorten. The Working Party added that it should not be up to countries to order the retention of more data than mandated in the Directive.

"The Working Party considers it appropriate to lay down specific recommendations to ensure increased harmonisation, more secure data transmission and standardised handover procedures," said the group's report. "The list of traffic data that are to be retained on a mandatory basis is to be regarded as exhaustive. Accordingly, no additional data retention obligations may be imposed on providers pursuant to the [Data Retention] Directive."

The EFF said that courts in Germany and Romania had rejected laws based on the Directive. The German court ruled that it was unconstitutional and the Romanian court ruled that it breached the right to privacy guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The experience in Europe makes clear that mandatory data retention regimes are disproportionate and unnecessary," said Galperin. "We continue to believe that the legitimate needs of law enforcement can be met by a more targeted data preservation regime, without the collateral damage inflicted by the 2006 directive."

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