Richard North, 03/08/2005  

Following Home Secretary Clarke's proposals last month for an EU law on data retention, it seems the EU commission has been hard at work preparing a new directive.

According to the on-line magazine Infoeconomy, a leaked commission document has revealed its plans which, if anything, are worse than expected.

The proposed directive will force telecommunication companies to store logs of all fixed and mobile telephony traffic for one year while internet traffic will have to be kept for six months. The proposal requires the identity and addresses of both the sender and receiver be stored.

Although content will not be subject to retention, mobile operators will be required to keep geographical location of the caller on record, which means the authorities will have a record of the movement of anyone unwise enough to use a mobile phone.

Nor is the proposed law confined just to terrorism, as the records will be more generally available to the authorities to help prevent, investigate, detect and prosecute "criminal offences" and to assist in tracing suspects.

Furthermore, in a style typical of the commission, the term "telecom provider" is not clearly defined. Thus, many businesses which currently own telephone exchanges could be covered by the regulations. Even hotels could be obliged to keep records of their guests' telephone calls.

And, as always, there is no indication of who is expected to pay for the regime. Set up costs in the UK alone are estimated to be €180 million (£124m), while annual running costs could be as high as €50 million (£34.5m).

Slowly, slowly, our rights to privacy are being eroded – all in the name of public safety. It is no exaggeration to say that the police state cometh.

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