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Majority of EU states want EU-wide blanket communications data retention

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

While the new German government has come out against indiscriminate data retention, the majority of EU governments have other goals. A diplomatic report to the German Foreign Office, published today by the news portal Netzpolitik.org, summarises the wishes and plans of EU governments on the issue of data retention. The EU Commission wants to take action following a pending decision by the European Court of Justice.

Member of the European Parliament, civil liberties activist and lawyer Dr Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party), who has filed a constitutional complaint against the German law on data retention, comments:

“Data retention is the first surveillance law directed against the entire population. This puts us on a slippery slope. The distinction between content and communications data has been blurred. We know today, according to the current state of research, that metadata allows for conclusions to be drawn that are at least as revealing as knowing the content of communications.

Unfortunately, the greatest consensus exists on mandating indiscriminate IP data retention, which the judges in Luxembourg recently green-lighted to under massive pressure. Under no circumstances should all internet users be placed under general suspicion and online anonymity be abolished! A general and indiscriminate retention of our identity on the Internet allows for creating comprehensive personality and movement profiles of practically every citizen. Incidentally, there is no evidence that IP data retention significantly increases the crime clearance rate. In the absence of data retention Germany today has a higher cybercrime clearance rate than with IP data retention in place in 2009.“

A parliamentary question had recently revealed that Germany fails to trace only 3% of NCMEC reports of alleged child pornography due to a lack of IP data retention. Previously, the German Working Group on Data Retention had stressed that IP retention was “completely unsuitable for protecting children”. In 2020 Germany was able to prosecute 91.3% of all child pornography cases – without mandatory IP data retention being in force.[3]

Background information on data retention