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Blanket communications data retention: EU Commission orders biased study

The Home Affairs department of the EU Commission has ordered a study on the EU-wide reintroduction of blanket communications data retention. The contract for the study, which Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer has partially been able to obtain, reveals a massive bias in favour of reintroducing the controversial policy which has repeatedly been annulled by the European Court of Justice.

“Our fundamental right to privacy and the (in)compatibility of data retention with it are not to be considered according to the contract. Instead the study is to investigate extreme surveillance options that clearly violate our fundamental rights. For years, civil society has been criticising the fact that blanket communications data retention neither increases the crime clearance rate nor reduces the number of crimes committed, but has extremely harmful effects on confidential consulting activities, investigative journalism and much more. The EU Commission does not even want to have any of these issues investigated in the context of the study. A comparison of the situation with and without blanket data retention laws in place is completely missing in the contract.

Instead of an independent scientific study, a commercial consultant firm has been contractually obliged to accept all changes to the final report the EU Commission demands. Instead of a transparent procedure, only government representatives in Council are being informed about the process. Instead of involving all affected groups in the study, data protection authorities, professional associations and civil society will not even be asked. Instead of an open-ended approach, EU Security Commissioner Johannsson has already spoken out in favour of new ‘legislation for data retention’ late last year in the Civil Liberties Committee.

Blanket and indiscriminate telecommunications data retention is the most privacy invasive instrument and the least popular surveillance measure ever adopted by the EU. This extreme intrusion into the privacy of every single person in the EU must be stopped!”

Yesterday privacy NGO Digitalcourage was the first to criticise the study contract. The Max Planck Institute and the Working Group on Data Retention criticised the EU Commission’s evaluation methodology on data retention as early as 2011.

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