Today and tomorrow, the European Court of Justice will hear complaints against indiscriminate data retention in France (C-511/18), Belgium (C-520/18) and the United Kingdom (C-623/17). Civil liberties activist and MEP Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party) explains:
“The recording of information about all citizens‘ everyday communications, movements and Internet use constitutes the greatest threat to our right to a self-determined and private life yet. Hundreds of innocent people could have been wrongly convicted in Denmark due to errors in retained communications data – the European Parliament will shortly address this case. Telecommunications data are particularly vulnerable to subjecting innocent people to criminal investigation and must therefore not be piled up without suspicion.
It is scandalous that repeated rulings delivered by the European Court of Justice against data retention rules are being ignored by European governments and the EU Commission is sitting idly by. Diversity and social protest will suffer under constant observation and recording. A conformist society has no future. Let us stop mass surveillance without cause! My work in the European Parliament is committed to this cause.”
Background: From the point of view of civil society, an indiscriminate retention of communications data is highly harmful for many sectors of society: it impairs confidential communication in areas where people depend on confidentiality (e.g. for contacts to psychotherapists, doctors, lawyers, workers councils, marriage counsellors, fertility centres, drug abuse counsellors and other counselling centres) and thus endangers the physical and mental health of people in need of help, but also of people around them. If journalists can only receive information electronically via traceable channels, this endangers the freedom of the press and thus impairs the basis of a free democratic society. Suspicious and indiscriminate data retention creates risks of misuse and loss of confidential information about our personal contacts, movements and interests. Telecommunications data are also particularly vulnerable to unjustifiably subjecting innocent people to criminal investigation.