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Issue

Communications Data Retention

The mass retention of individuals' communications records, outside the context of any criminal investigation or business purpose, amounts to the compilation of dossiers on each and every one of us, our friends, family and colleagues.

Under the justification of tackling terrorism and crime, several countries worldwide have implemented regulation that obliges providers of communication services or networks to retain traffic and location data generated by mobile and landline phones, fax and email. For example, the Data Retention Directive, approved by the European Union in 2006, requires that every telecommunications company in Europe must retain their customers’ records for a period of between six months and two years.

The mass collection and retention of information creates challenges for the right to privacy. Broad-ranging data retention policies result in the indiscriminate creation of vast dossiers of information on everyone’s activities, including location data and communications with friends, families and work colleagues. There are alternative methods of surveillance that are less disproportionate, for example, requiring a court order to allow operators to retain data related just to a specific individual suspected of criminal activity.

We scrutinize the deployment and abuses of data retention policies, and oppose certain policies when we believe them to be dangerous. We work closely with civil society groups and industry to minimize harm, and we closely monitor attempts to expand the reach of data retention policy into new forms of communications, e.g. search engines and social networking.

Communications Data Retention

Blog
Anna Crowe's picture

The government of Pakistan is proposing a new law that significantly threatens privacy rights, in a blatant attempt to establish a legal regime containing broad powers when it comes to obtaining, retaining, and sharing data obtained through criminal investigations, including communications data.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2014, contains worrying aspects that threaten the right to privacy, including a provision that would permit unregulated information sharing with foreign governments. Pakistani rights groups are echoing Privacy International’s concerns and demanding that the draft law be rewritten. Pakistan has a poor human rights record and passing the law in its current form would represent a further step backwards in the protection of fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy.

Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

As privacy and free expression advocates hail the demise of the Data Retention Directive at the hands of the European Court of Justice, one large question is looming in the midst of celebration.

Now what? 

More specifically, what will be its impact of the national laws of the European Union countries? What steps should EU governments be taking to ensure the Court’s decision is given effect? What are the implications for communications service providers who have been collecting and storing data in accordance with the Directive for many years? How can we ensure that this harmful practice is ceased immediately?

Press release

The ruling today from the European Court of Justice, invalidating the European Union’s 2006 Data Retention Directive policy, was strong and unequivocal: the right to privacy provides a fundamental barrier between the individual and powerful institutions, and laws allowing for indiscriminate, blanket retention on this scale are completely unacceptable.

As the Court states, it is not, and never was, proportionate to spy on the entire population of Europe. The types of data retained under this hastily-enacted Directive are incredibly revealing about our lives, including our daily activities and whom we have relationships with. It is right and overdue that this terrible directive was struck down.

In the media
Publisher: 
CBR
Publication date: 
08-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Jimmy Nicholls
Original story link: 

Civil liberties advocate Privacy International said: "If the Data Retention Directive fails to meet the requirements of human rights law, then the mass surveillance programs operated by the US and UK governments must equally be in conflict with the right to privacy."

In the media
Publisher: 
Mashable
Publication date: 
08-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Original story link: 

"It is not, and never was, proportionate to spy on the entire population of Europe," London-based Internet advocacy group Privacy International said in a press release. "It is right and overdue that this terrible directive was struck down."

In the media
Publisher: 
Ars Technica
Publication date: 
08-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Cyrus Farivar
Original story link: 

Privacy International, a London-based nonprofit, argued in a statement that “this ruling demolishes communications data surveillance laws not just across Europe, but sets the precedent for the world.”

“What the Snowden revelations have shown us over the past year is that the international surveillance apparatus set up by intelligence agencies is in direct conflict with human rights," the nonprofit said. "If the Data Retention Directive fails to meet the requirements of human rights law, then the mass surveillance programs operated by the US and UK governments must equally be in conflict with the right to privacy.”

In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
08-Apr-2014
Author(s): 
Charles Arthur
Original story link: 

The pressure group Privacy International called the ECJ ruling "strong and unequivocal", saying that "the right to privacy provides a fundamental barrier between the individual and powerful institutions, and laws allowing for indiscriminate, blanket retention on this scale are completely unacceptable.

"As the court states, it is not, and never was, proportionate to spy on the entire population of Europe. The types of data retained under this hastily enacted directive are incredibly revealing about our lives, including our daily activities and whom we have relationships with. It is right and overdue that this terrible directive was struck down."

Blog
Dr Gus Hosein's picture

In Geneva this week, an expert seminar will be held at the Human Rights Council on the right to privacy. To inform these discussions and debates, Privacy International is releasing our report, The State of Privacy 2014, which identifies recent accomplishments from around the world, and highlights significant challenges ahead for this right.

To read the full report, go here.

Promoting and defending the right to privacy in national and international policy discourses is always an interesting challenge. The right to privacy is fundamental to who we are as human beings, insulating our most intimate and personal thoughts and deeds, and acts as a critical safeguard against abuse and overreach by pow- erful institutions. It is perhaps for these reasons that the right has for so long been under attack by governments.

In the media
Publisher: 
The Telegraph
Publication date: 
11-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Matthew Sparkes
Original story link: 

Today there are also live demonstrations planned in Denmark, Stockholm and the US. In London this evening there will be an event including lectures on how to improve your online security as well as the launch of a campaign called Don’t Spy on Us, backed by Liberty and Privacy International, which calls for an inquiry into mass surveillance in the UK.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
The Guardian
Publication date: 
11-Feb-2014
Author(s): 
Alex Hern
Original story link: 

In the UK, the protest was launched at 11:30 with a thunderclap, a mass call on social media for wider opposition to spying. That opening strike was supported by users including Owen Jones, Graham Linehan, and Tom Watson MP, and was organised in co-operation with a range of civil liberties organisations including Liberty, English PEN, Privacy International, Article 19 and Big Brother Watch.

Countries: 

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