EC eases telcos data retention fears

2nd June 2005 The European Commission looks set to introduce legislation that will force communication service providers to store email, SMS and phone logs, although the retention period is likely to be lower than initially feared.

The European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding said yesterday that a bill proposed by the UK, France, Ireland and Sweden, which had suggested that service providers should keep records of their customers’ communications for as much as four years, would impose unnecessary costs upon those companies.

But the Commission still has an appetite for data retention, and it looks likely that communication service providers will in future be required to store data logs.


The EC first considered retention policies in a bill proposed in April of 2004, after phone logs were said to have enabled police to make swift arrests following the Madrid bombings.

At that stage the bill was described by pressure group Privacy International as ‘unlawful,’ and roundly criticised by businesses.

Now the Commission is considering more issues than just combating terrorism, and has promised to consult industry on any legislation. “We have to balance the security issue and the issue of privacy and commercial considerations,” Reding told reporters.

Any legislation concerning data retention would be preceded by a thorough investigation on the effect it would have on the telecommunications industry, Reding added. “It’s essential to start with a solid impact assessment before the Commission will put the proposal on the table.”

The secretary general of the European Internet Service Providers Association, Richard Nash, told Infoconomy that Reding’s promise of an impact assessment was welcome news to the industry, which is deeply concerned about the possible affects data retention legislation might have.

“Without consideration of how difficult data retention would be to do,” said Nash, “the policies they propose will be unworkable.” Nash said that the heavy storage requirement data retention obligations would involve could stifle innovation in the telecommunications sector.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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