EU data retention rules violate privacy rights and are invalid, EU court rules

Rules requiring telcos to retain communications metadata are disproportionate, the court said

European Union laws requiring communications providers to retain metadata are invalid because they seriously interfere with fundamental privacy rights, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) ruled Tuesday.

The EU's Data Retention Directive requires telecommunications and Internet providers to retain traffic and location data as well as related data necessary to identify the subscriber or user. This is required for the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime, in particular organized crime and terrorism.

However, the High Court of Ireland and the Constitutional Court of Austria doubted the validity of the directive, and asked the CJEU to investigate whether it violates the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, the court said.

The CJEU found the directive interferes with those rights and declared it invalid, a decision welcomed by campaigners for online privacy.

The European Commission said it will assess the court's verdict and its effects.

Member of the European Parliament Sophie in't Veld said, "It is good that the legislature gets a slap on the wrist. Now we can finally delete this unsound law," adding that future laws to combat terrorism must comply with civil rights.

European Digital Rights Group (EDRi) executive director Joe McNamee called the law an affront to the fundamental rights of European citizens and said the decision marked the end of "eight years of abuses of personal data."

And in the U.K. Open Rights Group director Jim Killock said, "Blanket data collection interferes with our privacy rights.  We must now see the repeal of national legislation that obliges telecoms companies to collect data about our personal phone calls, text messages, emails and internet usage."

The court said retaining such data makes it possible to know how, when and with whom service users communicate, how often they call, and where they call from. That, in turn, could provide precise information on the private lives of the persons whose data are retained, including where they live, their daily habits, and their social lives, the court said. Requiring that telecommunications operators retain the data and allow the authorities to access it interferes with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data -- and, because those data are retained and used without informing the user the directive is likely to generate a feeling that people's private lives are the subject of constant surveillance, the court added.

Although the court acknowledged that retention of data can help fight serious crime and improve public security, it identified several ways in which the EU legislature had exceeded the limits of proportionality in adopting the directive.

The directive is too general, covering all individuals, all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any differentiation, limitation or exception. It also makes no requirement for review by a court or an independent body before providing access to the data. In addition, the directive imposes a retention period of at least six months without making any distinction between the categories of data on the basis of the persons concerned or the possible usefulness of the data in relation to the objective pursued.

The directive included insufficient protections to prevent the data from being accessed unlawfully, and did not require that the retained data be stored within the EU, as explicitly required by the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the court added.

The CJEU's ruling is binding for national courts who have to dispose of cases in accordance with the Court's decision.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Civil lawsuitslegalEuropean Court of Justice

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?