A recently released independent scientific study produced by the
criminological department of the well-known German Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law
finds that data retention does not result in an increase in the security
of citizens. Supporters of the 2006 EU policy of retaining
telecommunications data without cause (data retention directive 2006/24) had so far argued
that the absence of blanket data retention resulted in a „security gap“
for citizens. The German Working Group on Data Retention (AK Vorrat)
now urges the EU to reconsider its position based on the recent
The study, commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Justice, finds that data retention laws in Germany and Switzerland did not result in a
higher clearance rate of serious crime. „Data retention is an instrument without any measurable
effect on crime clearance rates which costs the tax-payer millions of
euros“, states Katharina Nocun, member of the German Working Group
against Data Retention. “The immaterial cost of data retention is an
assault on the right to privacy and the elimination of the presumption
of innocence. That is a high price we should never agree to pay -
especially not for a measure that is ineffective.“
The German Working Group on Data Retention (AK Vorrat) and many
other civil rights group see themselves confronted with a growing number
of abuse cases concerning data retention. In view of these cases of
abuse, it is obvious that data retention harms the freedom of the press
and individual rights.
Despite the existence of various scientific findings on the
ineffectiveness of data retention, supporters of the notorious EU data
retention directive still use untypical isolated cases and populist
arguments in order to defend the highly criticized measure. „How can it
be that the EU still maintains their plans to spy on their citizens on
this incredible scale? There is no judicial or scientific proof -
neither for the compatibility with fundamental rights nor for the
effectiveness of data retention“, criticizes padeluun from the German
Working Group on Data Retention. „A scientific evaluation should be the
basis of any objective debate on indiscriminate communications data retention.“
The German Working Group on Data Retention urges the EU
Commission to propose the repeal of the EU requirements regarding data
retention in favour of a system of expedited preservation and targeted
collection of traffic data as agreed in the Council of Europe's
Convention on Cybercrime.
Translation of key findings of the Max-Planck-Institute study:
"9) Examining crime-specific clearance rates in the years of
1987-2010 one finds that the cessation of blanket data retention cannot
be seen as a cause of changes in clearance rates. This is not surprising
considering the large number of registered crime, which by far exceeds the number of
requests for traffic data.
"10) Nor do clearance rates relating to computer crime or
so-called Internet crime point to changes in clearance rate trends
during the period of blanket data retention [in Germany].
"11) Considering specifically the year of 2008 when
communications data retained without cause were generally available [in
Germany], no change in clearance rates relating to data access can be
observed in relation to any of the types of crime examined in this study,
neither in comparison to the previous year nor to the consecutive years
"12) When comparing clearance rates in Germany and in Switzerland
in 2009 one cannot find any evidence that the policy of blanket data
retention (having been in place in Switzerland for 10 years) resulted in
a systematically higher rate of crime clearance.
"13) Individual comparisons between Germany, Austria and
Switzerland (which since 2008 had - at least temporarily - differing
legal regimes of data retention in place) do not provide evidence of any
measurable changes in security levels due to the systematic collection
and retention of traffic data or the absence of such policy.
"14) Nor does the examination of additional information sources
result in dependable evidence for any reduction in the means of
protection due to the end of blanket data retention [in Germany]. [...]
"15) It is impossible to exclude with certainty that in complex
investigation procedures and in relation to capital crime traffic data
may represent important evidence or allow for additional investigation.
Such cases, if they can be identified without doubt, are without
relevance to the general trends however."
The Max-Planck-Institute study also blasts the EU Commission's 2011 "Evaluation report on the Data Retention Directive":
"46) The European Commission's evaluation report assumes that the
blanket retention of communications data significantly contributed to
"47) The Commission's evaluation however was unsuited to address
the policy of data retention as it did not differentiate between data
retained under blanket retention policies and other communications data.
The report contains data relating to communications data access in
"48) The description of the usage of traffic data is based on
data provided by one third of EU member states. Most member states could
not even provide data on simple structures of access to traffic data.
"49) The statistics on access to communications data do not
differentiate between subscriber data and traffic data, and between
different types of access to data.
"50) The description of the usage of traffic data does not
differentiate according to the kind and seriousness of crime that was investigated.
The evaluation does not say whether and in how far data retained without
cause or communications traffic data in general are relevant to
investigations of serious crime specifically.
"51) None of the statistics provided by EU member states are
conclusive as to whether and to what degree (general) traffic data have
contributed to the clearance of crime (or not).
"52) The little information and case reports provided beyond
statistics are mostly not verifiable and therefore unsuitable for an