EU proposes new police powers to monitor all electronic communications

The European Union is proposing that phone companies, mobile companies and internet service providers must retain all information that they collect on anyone called or contacted by an EU citizen and the places where those comunications were made for a period of at least one year.

The new proposals are being formulated because law enforcement agencies are worried that the rapid pace of technical innovation opens new opportunities for terrorists. The ever widening diversity of devices means that EU police forces say they are struggling to keep up. Their concerns cover such things from good old fashioned fixed phones to mobile phones, short message services (SMS), electronic media services (EMS) and multi media services (MMS), VoIP, etc..

Under the draft framework providers of publicly available electronic communications services or networks must retain information allowing for establishing the source, routing, destination, time, date and duration of communications and the location of the telecommunications

devices used.

This is an extension of the previous ruling. However, the EU has decided that the original version limited itself to data already processed and stored for billing, commercial and other legitimate purposes. However, the ministers worried that in certain circumstances vital data might be lost. For example, where a telco offering a flat rate service, wouldn’t actually collect data like call receiver and duration, as they would assume such data was none of their business.

The EU disagrees. The new approach forces comms companies to retain a prescribed list of data. Under the ruling the service provider would be under an obligation to retain the data even if it has no interest for the service provider.

The EU will now consider the new proposals in terms of whether the extra powers justify the costs, the efficiency of the measures and how it will impinge on data protection and other privacy legislation.

Those with long memories will remember this is not the first time that the EU has tried to collect all of the communications of its citizens to its bosom. Similar moves were made in 2002. However, those proposals were merely ‘recommendations`. The new proposals establishing a of data to be be collected by communications companies would come into law.

British ISPs are already forced to keep the emails of UK citizens for a period of one year under the Regulation and Investigatory Powers Act.

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