EU to Force Telecoms to Keep Records
The European Union agreed Wednesday to legally require
telecommunications companies to keep records of their phone and e-mail
traffic for at least a year as part of the bloc's anti-terrorist
The decision by the 25 EU justice ministers comes after years of
European debate over the privacy and cost concerns of data retention.
The ministers agreed phone companies must keep records for 12 months and
Internet access providers must retain data on Web sites visited and
e-mail addresses used for six months.
The EU's counterterrorism efforts began taking shape after the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks in the United States. Some have already been enacted.
The phone and Internet data retention bill took on added urgency after
the July 7 suicide bombings in London that killed 52 people on the
city's transit system.
British Home Secretary Charles Clarke, whose country holds the
rotating EU presidency, said he was pushing hard for a European law by
He said it will happen with or without the backing of the European
Parliament which has raised privacy concerns. Some of its members have
spoken of "invasive measures."
The EU assembly's approval is crucial, however, if the measure is to
be quickly enacted across Europe. Without it, the law would be much
weaker and the EU's executive office would not be able to pressure
countries that drag their heels in putting it into force.
Clarke said the legislation would be flexible and that countries may
require data to be kept for more than a year. Italy and Ireland would
be allowed to continue to require their telecommunications companies
to keep traffic data for three and four years respectively as
currently required by national laws there.
In recent months, the telecommunications industry has warned that
keeping traffic data on record for a year or longer would cost
millions of dollars, especially if the industry must also keep track
of calls that received no answer. Law enforcement agencies are
interested in those calls because they can set off remote bombs.
Clarke said it would be left up to individual nations to compensate the
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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