"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Thursday, April 10, 2014

EU high court strikes down metadata collection law

A Blow For Freedom

While the United States continues to debate metadata collection conducted in secret by the National Security Agency, the European Union has been openly collecting the same sort of data for eight years.

In the wake of terrorist attacks in Madrid (2004) and London (2005), the European Union passed a directive in 2006 requiring that all telecommunications providers retain all kinds of telephone and Internet metadata for at least six months and provide it to law enforcement upon request.

According to a ruling handed down Tuesday by the European Court of Justice, that directive is now invalid reports ars Technica News.

The case was brought by activists at Digital Rights Ireland and the Austrian Working Group on Data Retention. The two organizations had challenged the law as it had been imposed in their respective countries.

The European judges concluded:
The Court takes the view that, by requiring the retention of those data and by allowing the competent national authorities to access those data, the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. Furthermore, the fact that data are retained and subsequently used without the subscriber or registered user being informed is likely to generate in the persons concerned a feeling that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance.
. . .
Although the retention of data required by the directive may be considered to be appropriate for attaining the objective pursued by it, the wide-ranging and particularly serious interference of the directive with the fundamental rights at issue is not sufficiently circumscribed to ensure that that interference is actually limited to what is strictly necessary.
“The ruling is great news for privacy and fundamental rights in Europe,” Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius, a researcher at the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam, told Ars. “The Court says basically that the fight against crime and terrorism, although important, doesn’t trump privacy rights.”

Due to the particularities of EU lawmaking, the effects of the directive will still be in place in most EU member states for the time being.

According to EU legal procedure, a directive is a type of law that requires each of the 28 member countries to “transpose” it into their own national laws. In this case, countries could even choose whether to expand the six-month requirement to as high as two years.

However, some more privacy-minded countries—such as Germany, Romania, and the Czech Republic—already had their national data retention laws overturned by their respective high courts.

This happened in Austria and Sweden as well; the countries were then were pressured by Brussels to pass new versions.

Current EU data retention law will remain in effect until repealed legislatively or invalidated by domestic courts.

Europeans Act - U.S. Drags feet.
European courts are acting to protect the right to privacy. 
Meanwhile in America the Supreme Court opted to not take up the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's surveillance program that collects bulk telephone data of hundreds of millions of Americans in an unconstitutional orgy of Orwellian power.
(National Journal)

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