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European Court of Justice to decide on blanket retention of communications data (7 Apr 2014) Print E-mail

Tomorrow the European Court of Justice will deliver its judgement on the validity and proportionality of the EU directive on mandatory blanket retention of all communications data.

The importance of the upcoming court decision can hardly be overestimated: The indiscriminate retention of information on every telephone call, text message, e-mail and Internet connection made by any citizen is "the most privacy invasive instrument ever adopted by the EU in terms of scale and the number of people it affects" (Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor). Blanket data retention registers permanently the everyday communications, movements and Internet usage of 500 mio. citizens in the EU. On average, every 4 minutes information concerning us is being recorded ( Apart from the intelligence programmes that have surfaced now, data retention creates the greatest databases of personal information in existence.

The decision to be taken by the European Court of Justice will determine whether or not the government can potentially have our entire lives and behaviour recorded "just in case" or whether innocent citizens will have a right to untraceable communications and interaction in an information society. The ruling will also indirectly determine whether the intelligence interception programmes that have recently surfaced in the UK ("Tempora") and France will have to be ended for violation European human rights.

Blanket and indiscriminate telecommunications data retention has proven harmful to many sectors of society: It disrupts confidential communications in areas that legitimately require non-traceability (e.g. contacts with psychotherapists, physicians, lawyers, workers councils, marriage counsellors, drug abuse counsellors, helplines), thus endangering the physical and mental health of people in need of help as well as of people around them. The inability of journalists to electronically receive information through untraceable channels
compromises the freedom of the press, which damages preconditions of our open and democratic society. Blanket data retention creates risks of abuse and loss of confidential information relating to our contacts, movements and interests. Communications data are
particularly susceptible to producing unjustified suspicions and subjecting innocent citizens to criminal investigation.

More than 100 organisations from 23 European countries are calling on the EU in a joint letter to "repeal ... the EU requirements regarding data retention in favour of a system of expedited preservation and targeted collection of traffic data".

Important information concerning the delivery

Time and place of delivery:

The questions raised by the Irish High Court and its reasoning (excerpt: "Nonetheless it is clear that where surveillance is undertaken it must be justified and generally should be targeted.")

The questions raised by the Austrian Constitutional Court and the Court's reasoning (excerpt: "Considering the doubts regarding the effectiveness it [blanket data retention] appears to interfere disproportionately with human rights.") (reasoning in German only)

Civil liberties NGO slams EU Advocate General's opinion:,en/

Working Group on Data Retention: Background information and facts concerning the Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC

Working Group on Data Retention: Arguments of Data Retention advocates critically discussed,en/

Resource and document trove:

Photos of protests in Germany against data retention (free use):

Call of more than 100 organisations from 23 European countries to abolish the EU data retention directive:,en/

If you have questions or are looking for an interview partner please contact our press spokespeople:,en/

About the German Working Group on Data Retention:
The Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung (AK Vorrat) is a Germany-wide organisation which campaigns against extensive surveillance in general and the blanket logging of telecommunications and other behavioural data in particular.
Homepage and contact details:

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