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EU proposal puts confidential communications data at risk (28 Jan 2009) Print E-mail

Civil liberties groups La Quadrature du Net, European Digital Rights (EDRi) and AK Vorrat are urging the European Parliament to heed advice given by the European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx and scrap plans dubbed "voluntary data retention".

"A proposal currently discussed in the European Parliament as part of the 'telecom package' would allow providers to collect a potentially unlimited amount of sensitive, confidential communications data including our telephone and e-mail contacts, the geographic position of our mobile phones and the websites we visit on the Internet", warns Patrick Breyer of German privacy watchdog AK Vorrat. "Apart from the creation of vast data pools that could go far beyond what is being collected under the directive on data retention, the proposal would also permit the passing on of traffic data to other companies for 'security purposes'. We must not let a potentially unlimited amount of confidential data be exposed to risks of disclosure or abuse in this way."

"This proposal is lobbied for under the guise of 'security', but what it really means is that users and citizens would have no expectation of privacy on the Internet anymore," adds Ralf Bendrath from EDRi. "This is a clear breach of the European tradition of considering privacy a fundamental human right."

In a paper published earlier this month, European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx joined the critics, warning the proposal would constitute a "risk of abuse" and "may be interpreted as enabling the collection and processing of traffic data for security purposes for an unspecified period of time."[1] Hustinx reached "the conclusion that the best outcome would be for the proposed Article 6.6(a) to be deleted altogether" - a view firmly shared by La Quadrature du Net, EDRi, and AK Vorrat.

"A few months before the elections, citizens will have the opportunity to see if the Members of European Parliament are willing to protect their privacy", declares Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of the citizen's initiative La Quadrature du Net. "Every citizen should inform their MEPs and ask them to massively reject this article 6 (6a) of the ePrivacy directive. Other crucial issues about content and network neutrality are at stake as well.[2] We must remind MEPs that they were elected to protect Europeans' fundamental rights and freedom rather than abolishing them in favour of particular interests."

In a letter of September last year, 11 German civil liberties, journalists, lawyers and consumer protection organisations "urgently" asked the Commission, the Council and Parliament to scrap the proposed article 6 (6a) and "maintain the successful regulation of traffic data" which they say has "proven to constitute the best guarantee for our safety in information society."[3]

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