European parliament adopts data retention directive
The European Parliament gave its final vote on 14 December 2005 on the European mandatory data retention directive. The Parliament approved the compromise that was reached between Council of Ministers of Justice (JHA Council), representatives from the Commission and the leaders in the European Parliament of the social-democrat and Christian-democrat groups. (see EDRI-gram 3.24)
The final text was approved with 378 for, 197 against and 30 abstentions. The two biggest parties, the PSE (socialist group) and PPE (conservative group) overwhelmingly voted in favour -only 39 PPE MEPs voted against (10 abstained) and 24 PSE MEPs voted against (2 abstained). The Green/EFA and GUE (left group) voted against while the ALDE (liberal group) split with 25 MEPs voting in favour and 37 against (including Mr Alvaro, the rapporteur). Rapporteur Alexander Alvaro (Liberals) was so disappointed by the procedure and the outcome that he asked to have his name removed from the report.
The European Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini hailed a "victory for democracy" - and EU compromise, meanwhile Mr. Alvaro said : "By voting as we (the Parliament) did today we create a precedent where Council need only say 'jump!' and Parliament cries 'how high?'" Alvaro substantially criticised that data must now be stored for a period of 6 to 24 months, while member states may adjust maximum retention periods at will. The fact that no guideline on cost reimbursement was approved raises the danger of fragmentation in the single market for the important telecoms sector. The directive is no longer limited to the fight against terrorism and organised crime, but now includes all serious crimes, as defined by each individual member state.
The EU Parliament included in the types of data to be retained the telephone calls location data, SMS and internet use. This includes unsuccessful call attempts if the company already stores such data.
Within 18 months, all member states of the EU will have to introduce mandatory data retention for telephony and internet data, for 6 to 24 months. Each member state will have to decide for which period it will retain the data. The national adoption will probably not be without problems because the national laws could be tested in the national constitutional courts if they breach any fundamental citizens' rights.
Also Ireland has announced its intent to take the Directive to the European Court of Justice for a supposed breach of the EC treaty, while some MEPs are considering contesting the Directive at the European Court of Human Rights because the directive lacks adequate safeguards.
MEP Charlotte Cederschiöld (PPE-DE) asked the Commission already on 15 December when it intended to begin and complete the impact assessment of the Directive and whether the Commission guaranteed that the data retention proposal was not contrary to fundamental rights in accordance with Article 8.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. No answer has been received so far.
The adoption of the directive is in opposition with some strong civil society activities, including the EDRI campaign that raised 58 000 signatures against such a directive in Europe. The petition is available in 21 languages and has been supported by 85 organisations and companies. The act was highly criticized by a number of consumers organisations, as well as electronic communication industry associations or journalists associations ( see EDRI-gram 3.23)
The percentage of votes and which MEP from which country and from which
group has voted.
EU adopts Big Brother directive, ignores industry and civil society (14 12
Two-page overview of the effects of the most important amendments(14 12
Ireland to contest data retention law at EU Court (14 12 2005)
Data Retention Directive webpage on the EU Parliament website
Question from MEP Charlotte Cederschiöld (PPE-DE) on Data retention
directive ( 15 12 2005)
EDRI-gram : Final push for single EP vote on data retention (5 12 2005)
EDRI-gram : Petition closed: 58.000 signatures (21 11 2005)